Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Ceisteanna (158)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

158. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she has, or will, examine the regulations for Garda vetting; if she will consider amending the regulations to make Garda vetting portable for a period of up to two years to allow for the reduction of waiting times and assist in easing the process for those who wish to do voluntary work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21729/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy may wish to note that the current average processing time for vetting applications is four weeks which is a significant improvement on this time last year when it stood at 12 weeks. Vetting procedures in this country are in place to protect children and vulnerable adults. As such they demand rigorous procedures to ensure their integrity and to maintain the highest level of confidence by the public and organisations availing of them. A full vetting check is conducted for each new application received to ensure that the most recent data available is taken into account. The non-transferability and contemporaneous nature of the certificate protects against the risk of fraud or forgery and is a guarantee of the integrity of the vetting service. It also affords the registered organisation the facility to assess suitability based on the most up to date information available on the applicant. The Deputy will appreciate that the safety of children and vulnerable adults is the primary consideration and this must remain the case.

There are certain limited circumstances where organisations can share a single vetting where this is agreed to by the vetting applicant. For example, persons involved in voluntary work may be doing work with more than one voluntary organisation at the same time, and may agree with the vetting applicant to share a single vetting disclosure. Similar arrangements arise in the health sector in regard to persons working as locums, agency nurses or other temporary employees in a number of different organisations, at the same time, or in the education sector where substitute teachers are on panels for substitute teaching in more than one school at the same time.

Elements of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 relating to the disclosure of convictions are under review at present. It is intended to bring proposals before the Oireachtas to provide that certain old minor convictions will not be disclosed under the provisions of the 2012 Act. However, very careful consideration would need to be given to any proposal to provide that a person who has been Garda vetted with one organisation can move to a different organisation without having to reapply for a new clearance from the Garda vetting section.

This is because once there has been any significant time lapse between one employment and another, the original Garda Vetting Disclosure would not include information regarding any recent criminal convictions, and the second employer could not safely rely on it. Under the Data Protection Acts, any sensitive personal data which employers use in regard to their employees must be current, accurate and up-to-date. Separately, employers would be exposed to civil liability if they knowingly recruited staff based on out-of-date criminal records information where the person in fact has a more recent criminal conviction.

Should vetting be allowed to be portable for a period of two years that would mean that no conviction committed in that two year period would be disclosed which, from a child protection perspective, would have obvious dangers.