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Former GAA coach fails in bid to challenge ruling that he’s a risk to children

In 2013 the Child and Family Agency found he was a risk to children and third parties should be informed of this.

Image: Shutterstock/SpeedKingz

THE HIGH COURT has refused to allow a GAA coach bring a challenge aimed at quashing a finding by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) that he represents a risk to children.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had sought to challenge the CFA’s 2013 finding after an investigation into an allegation he sexually abused a girl when she was aged between six and sixteen years old.

The CFA found the man is a risk to children and third parties should be informed of this. The man, who denies the claims, appealed the CFA’s finding. That appeal has yet to be heard.

Last December he launched High Court proceedings claiming the investigation process resulting in the finding against him was fundamentally flawed and he was concerned about the impact the finding would have on his reputation.

He had been involved for some years in underage coaching of GAA players but has voluntarily agreed to stop coaching youngsters.

The CFA argued the man’s application for judicial review should be refused, and that his appeal be allowed proceed.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys said he was refusing to grant the man leave to bring proceedings against the CFA because the man did not provide a sworn statement grounding his application.

The sworn statement, the Judge said, was required and the appropriate course in the circumstances.

The man had sought to rely on a sworn statement from his solicitor, however the Judge said that statement was “hearsay in essential respects.”

The man’s claim he was denied natural justice “must be made by him and not by someone on his behalf.”

For the court to grant leave on a hearsay affidavit in the circumstances would undermine the integrity of the hearing ultimately to be conducted.

The Judge added it is well established in law that an applicant must engage with the facts.

The court also has a duty to safeguard the rights of children that could be subject to abuse if the complaint against the man is well founded.

Statement to gardaí

In his decision the Judge also noted the case was nearly three and a half years on from the making of the allegations against the man, and the process remains on going.

The CFA, the Judge said has “upheld the complaint, but has not taken any steps to mitigate the risks involved, if there are any.” The GAA had not been informed of the finding, the court heard.

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The Judge said the Oireactais has recently enacted the 2015 Children First Act which will impose on many professionals in the state an obligation to any suspicions and allegations to the CFA.

“If the time taken to process the allegation being examined in the present case is anything to go by, one could be forgiven for wondering what level of preparedness and capacity exists within the CFA to address the huge increase in reporting that can be expected.”

The Judge also asked if what the impact will be on the High Court, which could anticipate a comparable increase of similar type of actions coming before the High Court.

Previously the court heard the action arose out of a statement a woman made to the gardaí in 2011, she now lives abroad. She alleged that between 1979 and 1989 she was sexually abused by the man.

No prosecution was brought arising out of that complaint. The matter was then investigated by a social worker after a complaint was made to the HSE resulting in the CFA’s finding against the man.

The man had complained that a social worker carrying out the investigation never interviewed the complainant. This amounted to a breach of fair procedures and natural justice, he claimed.

The finding against the man, it was claimed, was based on a redacted statement the complainant made to the gardai.

Read: Garda sues over incident in which prisoner “rubbed faeces on his face”>

About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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