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Advice of the Ombudsman for Children on the Scheme of the National Vetting Bureau Bill 2011

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence published the Scheme of the National Vetting Bureau Bill on 27 July 2011. The aim of the Bill is to give effect to the recommendation made by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children to introduce legislation to regulate and control the manner in which records of criminal convictions and information including soft information can be stored and disclosed by the Garda Síochána and other agencies for the purpose of child protection.

The absence of a statutory framework governing this aspect of child protection represents a serious lacuna in existing legislation aimed at shielding children from harm, notwithstanding the significant and essential work carried out by the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU).

The passage of the National Vetting Bureau Bill 2011 through the Houses of the Oireachtas is therefore a welcome opportunity to address this deficit and put in place a legally robust vetting system. In emphasising the importance of vetting, however, it should not be forgotten that it is one component of a larger child protection framework and that it cannot guarantee children’s safety in isolation.