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Press Release        

11th January 2007

One in Four seeks the implementation of Ferns Report recommendation to give the HSE powers to intervene in extra-familial child abuse

One in Four, the national charity which supports women and men who have experienced sexual violence, today welcomed moves by the Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan to introduce legislation that will give the Health Service Executive (HSE) further powers to investigate child abuse allegations made against people outside of the family context.

However, One in Four is concerned that the Minister has not addressed the central finding of the Ferns Report in this regard. The report found that the HSE did not have any express powers of intervention in cases involving the sexual abuse of a child by a person other than a family member. One in Four accepts the view of the Attorney General that the HSE has powers to investigate such abuse; that has never been the concern. What is of grave concern is the view of the Ferns Inquiry that upon completion of any such investigation the HSE have no express powers to intervene to prevent further abuse where a risk to children has been identified.

“We welcome this move by the Minister but have reservations that this legislation does not go far enough.  The Ferns Report, published in October 2005 highlighted the absence of any express powers that would allow the HSE to intervene in cases of extra familial abuse. It clearly recommended that the Minister for Health and Children should review the desirability of introducing legislation that would allow the Health Services Executive, or other suitable body to apply to the High Court, to bar or otherwise restrain any person from having unsupervised access to children where reasonable grounds exist for the belief that the person has abused or has a propensity to abuse children”, said Colm O Gorman, Director of One in Four.

“Powers of investigation without powers to act upon discovering that a person outside of the family has sexually abused a child are meaningless. Unless the HSE can both investigate allegations fully and then most crucially, act to prevent further abuse, we are failing to protect children.”

“We would therefore call upon the Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan, to introduce legislation, as recommended by the Ferns Report,  that would give powers to the Health Service Executive to not only investigate abuse outside of the family context, but also the power to apply to the High Court for an order barring a person deemed to be a risk to children from having contact with children.”

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