Expert to head review into child sex abuse allegations at St John Ambulance
Garda (Stock image)
March 08 2021 08:31 PM
Leading child protection expert Dr Geoffrey Shannon is to head an independent probe of how St John Ambulance handled child sex abuse allegations in the past, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman announced this evening.
Dr Shannon, the former Special Rapporteur for Child Protection, and an expert on child and family law, will review how St John Ambulance Ireland handled historical allegations of child sex abuse concerning a former volunteer with the organisation as well as its current standard of child safeguarding.
The decision to appoint Dr Shannon was made by the board of St. John Ambulance Ireland which wrote to the Children’s Minister today to confirm the law professor’s appointment.
The move was welcomed by Mr O’Gorman who said: “I met with the Board of St John Ambulance last December in relation to this matter and I am very glad to learn that they have arranged for an independent review into historical allegations of child sexual abuse and current safeguarding practices.
“I welcome the appointment of Dr Shannon to conduct this important review and note his extensive experience and expertise in this area. I look forward to St John Ambulance providing me with his report on the matter at the earliest possible time.”
He also praised “individuals who have, at immense personal cost in some cases, had the courage to share their experiences”.
“I would like to encourage anybody who has knowledge of these matters to come forward and speak with Dr Shannon. I would also support any person who has experienced abuse themselves, or has reason to believe that a child is at risk of abuse, to speak to Tusla, or the gardaí,” he said.
The establishment of the independent review comes after a number of people have come forward in recent months with retrospective disclosures of abuse by a former volunteer with the community ambulance service prior to leaving the organisation between 2000 and 2001.
Files have been prepared for the DPP after gardaí investigated a number of previous allegations.
St John Ambulance, meanwhile, said it will provide details on its website within the next days for anyone who wishes to contact Dr Shannon.
It said: “St. John Ambulance Ireland (SJAI) is aware of a number of complaints of sexual abuse of members under the age of 18 years relating to one former volunteer member who ceased volunteering with SJAI circa 2000/1.”