Abused children waiting five years for justice

Sexually abused children and their families are being subjected to “additional trauma” by having to wait an estimated five years before their court case is completed, according to a national therapy service, Cari, writes Cormac O'Keeffe.

Cari said an analysis of 23 cases in its court accompaniment service for victims last year revealed that these cases were “still subject to extensive delays” at different stages in the criminal justice process.

“We found that children wait, on average, five years from date of the crime to the end of the criminal proceedings,” said Eve Farrelly, manager of Cari’s forensic and court accompaniment services.

“It is our view that a five-year time span out of a child’s life is too long and it behoves all those involved in the administration of justice to prioritise and expedite children’s cases as far as possible while having regard for due process and rights of the accused.”

Cari CEO Mary Flaherty said five years was “a really long time, even for an adult”, but said that, for a child, it was at a vulnerable time in their lives.

“If they are five... they are 10 by the time its finished in the courts,” she said. “It’s more serious if they are nine or 10 and then into the difficult teenage years before the case comes up.”

She said there were delays at “every level” of the criminal justice system — from the Garda investigation, to the prosecution, to the courts and the judiciary.

“This is all despite a stated obligation to speed things up,” she said. “And we know the length of time it’s taking because we are accompanying them and that’s the average in the 23 cases.”

Speaking before the publication of the service’s annual report today, Ms Flaherty said: “We want to highlight the unnecessary additional trauma on children and their families at a vulnerable developmental stage.

“All the elements of the legal system need to try and address this and reduce the additional trauma from delays.”

Ms Flaherty said Cari managed to increase the therapeutic hours it could offer last year.

Despite this, she said waiting lists and waiting times for therapy “continued to grow as more referrals were received”.

She said that, in December 2016, there were 97 children waiting for Cari therapy services.

She said the agency had “campaigned for some time” for more statutory and private funding.

Ms Flaherty said it provided therapy to both the children and their family and that therapy can take a year or longer, depending on the person’s experience.

Cari: 1890 924567; cari.ie

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.


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