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Child Abuse Inquiry Decides Not to Name Accused

Irish Times, June 16, 2004 by Killian Doyle

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse has decided not to publicly name individuals accused of abuse unless they are convicted in the courts.

In a statement this morning, the commission chairman, Judge Séan Ryan, also said it would be calling witnesses to give evidence of abuse suffered by them, but only to the extent that is necessary in order for a proper investigation to be carried out.

The commission will now seek an amendment to the legislation drafted in 2000 under which it currently operates.

The problem with naming individual abusers was that it would prolong hearings for many years, as if people were to be identified, they would also have the right to be represented and cross-examine complainants in public sittings.

 The proposal means that not all the 1,712 complainants to the Investigation Committee will now be heard.  Judge Ryan said they could transfer to be heard at the other element of the commission, the Confidential Committee. This has already heard over 850 cases in private.

We are not going to wait for amending legislation before we get on with the inquiry
Judge Séan Ryan, Chairman of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

Judge Ryan insisted this option was not a "consolation prize" for people whose cases did not "make the cut" for hearing at the Investigation Committee.

The Investigation Committee has been holding discussions over the seven months to decide its future course of action. These included consultations with the legal teams representing victims, alleged abusers and various parties, including religious organisations.

Judge Ryan said they were anxious to find a solution that met the legal requirements laid down by the courts; promised a proper investigation into what happened and why; would not be prolonged unfairly and unreasonably to everyone involved, including the public; and was practical and focussed and sensitive to participants.

"We were candidly of the view at that time that the best - indeed the only realistic - way forward was by abandoning the quest to name individual perpetrators," he said.

The chairman apologised to anyone concerned who may disagree with this decision. "We have a job to do and we cannot avoid the responsibility of deciding difficult questions."

The proposed changes to the legislation will be sent to the Government later this week for consideration. The Investigation Committee hopes to begin its inquiries into specific institutions where abuse is alleged to have taken place early next month. "We are not going to wait for amending legislation before we get on with the inquiry," he said.

Judge Ryan took over the chair of the commission when Ms Justice Laffoy suspended its work last September and resigned.

Today's announcement comes two weeks before the Supreme Court is due to decide on an appeal by the Christian Brothers. They had challenged a High Court decision upholding the way the Investigation Committee worked.