146. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding Garda vetting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2951/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Ensuring the safety of children and vulnerable adults is the primary consideration in any vetting process and accordingly such vetting processes demand rigorous procedures to ensure their integrity and to maintain the highest level of confidence by the public and organisations availing of the service. To that end full vetting checks are conducted by the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) for each new vetting application received to ensure that the most recent data available is taken into account.
The current procedures for Garda vetting ensure the integrity of the system. This is because once there has been any significant lapse of time between one employment and another, the original Garda Vetting Disclosure would not include information regarding any recent criminal convictions, and the second employer could not safely rely on it.
Furthermore, under the Data Protection Acts, any sensitive personal data which employers use in regard to their employees must be current, accurate and up-to-date and employers would be exposed to civil liability if they knowingly recruited staff based on out-of-date criminal records information where the person in fact had a more recent criminal conviction. Effectively, the non-transferability and contemporaneous nature of the current process protects against the risk of fraud or forgery and is a guarantee of the integrity of the vetting service and such procedures are in line with best practice internationally.
There are, however, certain limited circumstances where organisations can share a single vetting disclosure where this is agreed to by the vetting applicant. For example, persons involved in voluntary work may be doing work with more than one voluntary organisation at the same time, and may agree with the vetting applicant to share a single vetting disclosure. Similar arrangements arise in the health sector in regard to persons working as locums, agency nurses or other temporary employees in a number of different organisations, or in the education sector where substitute teachers are on panels for substitute teaching in more than one school.
Finally, the current average processing time for vetting applications is four weeks. Any vetting process will take a certain minimum amount of time to complete and, taking into account the need to protect children and vulnerable adults while providing an effective and efficient service, I do not think that this time period is unreasonable.