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Child Abuse Probe into Vaccine Trials Thrown Out by High Court

Irish Independent, 12 June  2004

THE Government's order directing an inquiry into the conduct of vaccine trials on children in State institutions was deemed invalid by the High Court yesterday.

The inquiry was to be held under the aegis of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.
Mr Justice Aindrias O Caoimh gave his decision in a challenge brought by retired professor of microbiology Irene Hillary.

Professor Hillary worked for 33 years at UCD and participated in tests relating to the method of administration of vaccines in a number of State institutions in the 1960s.

However, the judge said his decision was not to be construed as suggesting there might not be issues relating to the trials which might be the subject of an appropriate form of inquiry.
The disputed order was made under the provisions of the Child Abuse Act 2000 following a report into clinical trials involving children in institutions in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mr Justice O Caoimh, in a 71-page reserved judgment, said he was satisfied the report disclosed nothing to suggest the conduct of the trials could be said to amount to "abuse" as defined in the 2000 Act.

In addition, he was unable to discern anything in the report that showed the additional functions sought for the Child Abuse Commission were "connected with" the commission's powers as they stood at the time the Government made its order.

He believed there must be some real connection before an "additional function order" could be made. In all the circumstances, he was satisfied that the Government's order was invalid. He emphasised that he was making his determination on the basis of the terms of the 2000 Act and not on the basis of "any perception of powers contained in that Act."

He adjourned the matter to June 28 to allow time for lawyers for all sides to study his judgment.