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Ombudsman for Children suspends investigation into the handling of the Child Protection Audit...


06/05/2009

Ombudsman for Children suspends investigation into the handling of the Child Protection Audit of the Catholic Church Dioceses by the HSE and the Department of Health

The Ombudsman for Children has said today (Wednesday) that she has suspended her investigation into the handling of the child protection Audit of Catholic Church Dioceses by the Health Services Executive and the Department of Health due to the failure by the HSE to genuinely cooperate with this process.

Since the investigation commenced four months ago, the HSE has failed to provide any of the documentation requested by the Ombudsman for Children. Despite a public statement and private assurances of its cooperation, the HSE has not engaged with the investigation by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office. The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs at the Department of Health has engaged with the investigation.

The HSE has also sought to bring the investigation into the legal arena by requesting that the Ombudsman for Children appoint a Senior Counsel to discuss the investigation with it’s own Senior Counsel. As a non-judicial body the Ombudsman for Children refused to take this course of action and instead contacted the HSE seeking a meeting to resolve whatever difficulties the HSE may have.

The HSE did not respond to this request for a meeting. A further letter was sent by the Ombudsman for Children to the HSE questioning whether it was the intention of the HSE to cooperate with the investigation.

The Ombudsman for Children then received a letter from the HSE stating that a decision had been made to supply documents that were not subject to legal privelege.

The documentation that arrived at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office from the HSE’s solicitors was a photocopy of the document, published in full on 7 January 2009 by the Minister for Children, that triggered the Ombudsman for Children’s investigation.

After careful consideration, the Ombudsman for Children has now deemed the HSE’s actions as non-cooperation, and has written to both the HSE and the Department of Health informing them of her decision to suspend the investigation.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is the statutory, independent body with responsibility for promoting the rights and welfare of all children living in Ireland. The role, functions and authority of the Ombudsman for Children are set out in the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002.

2. The Ombudsman for Children commenced this investigation to establish if there has been any maladministration in relation to the handling of the Child Protection Audit of Catholic Church Dioceses by the Health Services Executive and the Department of Health.

The investigation sought:

  • To establish if an action by the Department of Health and Children and/or the HSE in relation to the handling of the audit has or may have adversely affected a child. “Action” is defined in the Ombudsman for Children Act as a decision, failure to act or omission.
  • To establish if there has been any maladministration on the part of the HSE and/or the Department of Health and Children in relation to the handling of the audit.
  • To make any recommendations as may be deemed necessary at the conclusion of the investigation.

3. The investigation was being conducted under Section 10 (1)(a)(ii) of the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002, which provides that the Ombudsman for Children may conduct an investigation where an action may have adversely affected a child, where there may have been maladministration and where she considers that an investigation would be warranted.

In conducting investigations, the Ombudsman for Children is obliged by statute to have regard to the best interests of the child as per Section (6)(2) of the Ombudsman for Children Act.

Chronology of events

9th January 2009

The Ombudsman for Children wrote to Professor Brendan Drumm, CEO of the HSE and to Ministers Mary Harney and Barry Andrews informing them that her Office was commencing an investigation into the handling of the Child Protection Audit of the Catholic Church Dioceses by the Health Services Executive and the Department of Health. In these letters, the Ombudsman for Children requested that all relevant documentation be furnished to her Office within 21 days.

13th January 2009

The Ombudsman for Children received a letter from Professor Drumm stating that the HSE would provide any assistance necessary to the investigation and named a nominated liaison person at the HSE.

27th January 2009

The Ombudsman for Children received a letter from the HSE liaison person setting out a number of queries the HSE had in relation to the investigation and seeking an extension to the deadline. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office responded to the queries raised and extended the deadline.

30th January 2009

Closing date for submissions. Documents and a letter are received by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office from the Office of the Minister for Children.

6th February 2009

The HSE wrote to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office seeking a further two-week extension to the deadline for information.

18th February 2009

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office replied to the HSE’s request for an extension to the deadline and set a new deadline of 23rd February 2009.

26th March 2009

A note was sent from the HSE’s solicitors to the Ombudsman for Children’s solicitors seeking that the Ombudsman for Children instruct a Senior Counsel to discuss the investigation with the HSE’s Senior Counsel.

31st March 2009

The Ombudsman for Children wrote to the HSE stating that she would not be instructing a Senior Counsel and sought a meeting to discuss any difficulties that the HSE may have in relation to the request for information.

22nd April 2009

The Ombudsman for Children wrote to Professor Drumm informing him that she had not received a reply to her letter of 31st March 2009 and requesting that he let her know by 29th April 2009 if the HSE intended to cooperate with the investigation.

29th April 2009

The Ombudsman for Children received a letter from the HSE stating that the relevant files would be sent to her office that day. A package was hand-delivered to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office by the HSE’s solicitors which contained a cover letter with the Audit of Catholic Church Dioceses that was published in January 2009. None of the documents requested by the Ombudsman for Children were included.

5th May 2009

After careful consideration, the Ombudsman for Children made the decision to suspend this investigation due to the lack of genuine cooperation from the HSE. The Ombudsman for Children wrote to the CEO of the HSE and the Director General of the OMCYA advising them of her decision.

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