maandag, november 19, 2012

Irish judge warns abuse inquiry will take time

The judge who ran an inquiry into child abuse and neglect in Irish institutions says the Australian Government should not put an arbitrary time frame on its royal commission into child sexual abuse.
Ireland is the only other country to have launched a national child abuse inquiry similar to that announced on Monday by Australia's Prime Minister.

The majority of allegations investigated by the commission, led by high court judge Sean Ryan, related to 60 residential schools operated by the Catholic Church, who were funded and supervised by Ireland's department of education.

After nine years of inquiries, the commission reported its findings in 2009.

It said rape and abuse of Irish children in Catholic care was endemic: the entire system that held 30,000 children treated them more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential, and that some religious officials encouraged ritual beatings and consistently shielded their orders amid a culture of self-serving secrecy.

When confronted with evidence of child abuse, religious authorities responded by transferring offenders to another location, where in many instances they were free to abuse again.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said earlier on Tuesday the Australian inquiry should not run for more than two years, but Judge Ryan told Lateline he does not believe there should be a fixed time frame.

"We had a time limit but there was a capacity to extend the time limit," he said. "Everybody running an inquiry is conscious of the need to achieve the outcome, the result, to conclude the investigation. But I simply don't think you can pick an arbitrary time limit - well I wouldn't have thought you could do so - without knowing how many people are going to be giving evidence or how you're going to do it. Obviously a national inquiry has huge practical questions attached to it."

He says nobody ever expects any inquiry to take nine years.

"When I took over, it was in January '04, and I was very happy and indeed pleased that we were able to produce the report in May '09," he said. "Could that have been done faster? Undoubtedly. But could it have been done a huge amount faster? I don't know. These things take time. You can certainly cut out one element or another element and reduce the time, or you can increase the number of people working... It always takes longer than you'd think."

Judge Ryan added every public inquiry wrestles with similar issues of comprehensiveness.

"How do we include as many people as possible? How do we achieve that with sensitivity for, very often, vulnerable people who have been exposed to wrongs? How do we accommodate that, at the same time respecting the legal and human rights of people who are accused of things and who have a right to defend themselves? And how can we achieve all this in a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost? What particular mixture of elements you put together depends on the terms of reference and how specifically you're doing it, how many people are involved, and a variety of other things. But those essentially are issues that every investigation has to wrestle with."

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