By Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Saturday May 09 2009

A LEADING law firm which advises the HSE has apologised to Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan after a “serious error” by them led her to suspend a key investigation into child abuse by Catholic priests.

Earlier this week Ms Logan announced that she was suspending her investigation into the HSE’s handling of its child protection audit of Catholic dioceses, accusing the HSE of failing to co-operate with her inquiry despite assurances that it would.

The HSE initially said that a sole piece of legal advice it had obtained could not be handed over because it was privileged, “as with all legal advice between solicitor and client”.

Ms Logan, who is probing why the HSE did not insist on obtaining certain information on child abuse from a host of dioceses, insisted that the HSE was not entitled to assert legal privilege over any documents owing to her powers under the Ombudsman Act 1980.

The row threatened to scupper Ms Logan’s investigation, but last night the HSE said that it had discovered an “administrative error” by its solicitors, BCM Hanby Wallace, which resulted in an incomplete file being sent to Ms Logan. Following a meeting yesterday between the HSE and Ms Logan, the full file was transferred to her office.

The HSE said that despite its “full commitment” to this case, the full file was not sent to the Ombudsman last week as requested by the HSE.

“BCM Hanby Wallace has accepted responsibility for the error and has issued an apology to the Ombudsman and to the HSE for this serious error, which has placed its client and the Ombudsman in a difficult position,” said a HSE spokesperson last night.

Commitment

“The HSE has apologised to the Ombudsman for any inconvenience caused and reiterated our commitment to ensuring that errors such as this do not occur again.

“We have been committed to this process from the outset, we remain committed to it, and… there was no issue of non-cooperation on the part of the HSE.”

Yesterday the Ombudsman said that the file will be examined by its investigation team over the coming weeks.

“Following the examination, the Ombudsman for Children will determine whether the investigation can proceed,” said a spokesperson.

– Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor
Irish Independent

 

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