I want to publicly acknowledge the courageous and important work in which Ian Elliott is engaged which is crucial to ensuring, insofar as is possible, that in the future all necessary action is taken to protect children from sexual predators. Very understandable concerns have been expressed in relation to some of the findings in the reviews of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland in relation to four dioceses and three religious orders with regard to indefensible child protection failures.
Against that background, it is important to reassure the public that the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Act, 2012, which I introduced and piloted through the Oireachtas following the publication of the Cloyne report, introduced a very important measure designed to deal with the problem of people failing to report abuse.
The Act, which came into force on 1 August last, makes it an offence to fail to disclose, without reasonable excuse, information to the Garda Síochána relating to a serious offence committed against a child or vulnerable adult where the person knows or believes that an offence has been committed and he or she has information which may be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of that other person for the offence. While the Act applies only to information that a person acquires, receives or becomes aware of after the passing of the Act, it may relate to an offence committed prior to that date.
All too regrettably, many of the findings of the reviews underline how necessary the introduction of this legislation was.
More generally, I can confirm that yesterday I discussed the publication of the reports of the National Board with the Garda Commissioner and he has informed me that the Garda Sexual Crime Management Unit is examining those reports in the context of establishing what further action may be necessary on the part of An Garda Síochána in relation to them.
6 September 2012