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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C A letter from the Eastern Health Board confirming victim suffered fit and was brought to hospital. Also details family is known to health services.
fight for justice

Woman's rape claims against father and brother were 'shelved' by gardaí for 11 years

Alleged victim claims she was told gardai ‘forgot’ to send file to DPP.

IT TOOK GARDAÍ 11 years to pass claims to the DPP from a woman that she suffered sexual abuse at the hands of male relatives from the age of 7.

The woman said her father first raped her as a child and encouraged one of her brothers to do the same. Her claims were verified by social workers and in documents seen by, a social worker said “the father accepts he abused her”.

However, even though the woman brought her claims to gardaí in 1997, when she was in her 20s, the case was only passed on to the Director of Public Prosecutions ELEVEN years later, in 2008.

The woman said she received a call from a blocked number shortly after the file eventually went to the DPP telling her that no charges were to be brought against her father and that she received no official correspondence from gardaí to that effect.

As per DPP rules, there are just 28 days in which to lodge an appeal against the decision not to take a prosecution. The woman in this case claims she was not told this and had assumed that she had no more avenues available to her.

However, in some cases the DPP might extend this time limit. The DPP will do this only if there is a good reason and if it is in the interests of justice. The victim has since written to the DPP in recent weeks asking to be told the reasons why her father was not prosecuted.

The woman also claims that she was told by gardaí that the 11-year delay was because investigating gardaí at the Dublin station where she lodged her complaint “forgot to send the file to the DPP”.

Complaint made

In September 1997, the victim made her official complaint to the gardaí and a statement was taken. Her father was brought in for questioning and she was told that a file was being prepared for the DPP.

In the meantime, one of her brothers – who was also due to be questioned – took his own life.

The woman heard no more about her case and had suffered a number of nervous breakdowns in the following years and began receiving therapy from around 2000.

She was told by her therapist that it would be in the interest of her mental health to get closure on the abuse and finding out why she had not heard back from gardai or the DPP could help with this. This led her to investigate what happened to her initial complaint.

Garda meeting

In early 2008, the woman made representations to both the DPP and gardaí, asking for an update on her case some 11 years after she first made her complaint.

A matter of weeks later, the woman, by then a mother herself, received a phone call asking if she could come in and meet the then Chief Superintendent and Superintendent of the same Garda station in which she had made the official complaint.

She claims that she was told her file was not sent to the DPP when it should have been and that an internal investigation was ongoing to try to figure out why that happened. She was told she could contact the Garda Ombudsman and that she was entitled to make a complaint. However, she was assured that her case was now a priority. Therefore, she told, she decided against contacting the Garda Ombudsman hoping her case would be dealt with in a more timely fashion.

A number of months later, the victim then received a phone call stating that the DPP had decided not to pursue the case. She said she was “devastated” as she had provided a lot of documentation to gardai in 1997 in which social workers confirmed that she had been abused, and that it was always her greatest fear that she wouldn’t be believed.

Documents proving abuse/removal from home

Documentation by the Eastern Health Board (EHB) and social workers seen by confirm the following:

  • The woman was sexually assaulted as a child
  • Her father and brother performed “full intercourse” with the child
  • Child sex abuse was confirmed by the social workers and EHB
  • Her father cut a hole in her wall and would routinely watch his daughters undress
  • She and her three sisters were placed in care for a time. She was 7 at the time.
  • Two older sisters were then sent to a home in the southeast of the country
  • The victim and her younger sister went to a children’s home in north Dublin
  • All the girls were returned to the family home after six months
  • No male child was ever removed from their family home
  • Court documents show that the parents were not fit to take care of her

abuse-5-296x130 Documentation detailing that the woman was removed from her home due to safety fears.

The woman’s parents are still alive.

The partially-redacted document (above) from the Eastern Health Board details the removal of the four girls from their home in 1980:

It was therefore decided to seek a Fit Persons Order in court and, if granted, would remove the four girls from their home. The Justice granted the Fit Persons Orders on the four girls to the Eastern Health Board for a six month period. It is the intention of the Health Board to request an extension of this period when the case comes up for review in February 1981. It is the belief of the clinic team here that the future happiness of these girls depends on offering them an alternative to the situation in which they were living at home.

After six months in care, all four of the young girls were returned to their home. The woman said that the abuse continued.

When asked for comment on why the children were returned to their parents in 1981 and no legal action taken against the father, Tusla said it cannot comment on incidents which predated its existence. The HSE, when asked for comment on the actions of the Eastern Health Board in this case, referred us to Tusla.

Continued abused

More documentation seen by states that the victim’s father had a drinking problem and would interfere with the woman, when she was a child, on a regular basis. The documents also show that one of her brothers would get involved in the abuse.

When she became older, she would routinely ask her mother for money to attend a local disco and was told the family had not enough money. She claimed that her father would bring her out the back garden, force her to perform a sex act on him and then hand her money to go out with her friends.

On one night when she was 15 and attending the local disco, the girl suffered a fit and was brought by ambulance to Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown. It was there she told doctors that she would not return home.

Statements and documents created by the Eastern Health Board and social workers at this time show how the family was already known to the health services.

A letter from a social worker at the hospital reads: “[Victim] aged 15 was brought to casualty at about 1.30am on 2.3.89 by Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance. She had been at a disco/dance, had sustained an epileptic fit and had been found outside Wynn’s hotel. She told me she left home four days ago and had gone to live with a cousin….. She had begun to have epileptic seizures four years ago and had not had a seizure for a year until last night.”

It continued:

She refused to go home.The gardaí had gone to the family home but her parents refused to have anything to do with her.  She wanted to go back to her cousin’s house, so I brought her to X. No-one was in, neighbours did not know where [her cousin] was so I brought her to Focus Point [now Focus Ireland].

The letter finishes with the fact that “the family is already known to the Eastern Health Board”.

blanch redact A letter from the Eastern Health Board confirming victim suffered fit and was brought to hospital. Also details family is know to health services.

Another document from this time relates to her being placed in the emergency accommodation provided by Focus Point.

I contacted parents and brought her to see X. (Risk Identification Checklist signed by mother). Records in [a child and family agency at the time] shows history of sexual abuse (father/daughter [7]).

“[Social worker] passed on the following information he received from X (victim). Mr [name redacted] has an alcohol problem. He harms X in a sexual way when he has drink taken, the family known to [the] Child and Family Centre some years ago. Allegations of sexual abuse leading to X and sisters in care home some 10 years previously.

I read through some of the large file… and confirmed that Mr Y had an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Also X’s brother was also abusing her.

CSA2 REDACT FINAL A letter from a social worker detailing some of the alleged abuse. Also references large file on the family held at child and family centre.

The girl, then 15, spent a short time in the emergency hostel but eventually went home again because she was told her father was getting treatment to stop him from abusing her. He also was receiving treatment for alcoholism at a rehabilitation clinic.

A social worker wrote about this, reconfirming that she had been in an abusive situation and that her father had admitted the abuse:

Previous history of abuse by father and brother (24) which included intercourse by offenders. This was eight years ago. X (victim) says her father touched her in a way she didn’t like and she ran away. It appears that he fondled her breasts. She stayed in emergency hostel care but has since gone home. Father accepts that he abused her. X says she feels safe at home now and she has been referred to the Rape Crisis Centre.

Below that statement, it is confirmed that the health board was dealing with a case of child sex abuse (CSA). The box indicating ‘confirmed child sex abuse’ is selected.

hse final A child abuse notification detailing that her father accepts he abused her.

The woman said the abuse stopped at home when she returned and she finally left for good at 18. She did not find out until she was an adult that her father had previously spent time in a psychiatric unit after he interfered with young children outside the family before she was born. contacted the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Justice and the DPP for comment on the case. Both departments said that this case did not fall under their remit. The DPP said it could not comment on an individual case and on questions around the woman’s appeal,  and directed us to their website for regulations and deadlines relating to applications.

An Garda Síochána declined to formally comment on the accusations or on whether an internal investigation was conducted into the woman’s claim that she was told her file was “forgotten” for 11 years.

However, they said they were satisfied that a file was sent to the DPP in 2009 and that no prosecution was recommended.

Tusla has said that it can’t comment on the case as it occurred before the child and family agency was set up.

The HSE was contacted for comment about protocols which were in place regarding child sex abuse reports and what standard procedure at the time was for bringing these issues to the attention of gardaí.

They referred us to Tusla.

Read: HSE misallocated latest request from sexual abuse survivor whose claims it lost for 3 years >

Read: ‘Children are treated like human trash’: The systematic failings in Ireland’s child protection system >