Statement from Sarah Clancy, November 19th

Home Page // Archieve // Human Rights // Statement from Sarah Clancy, November 19th

Human Rights, Justice

Sarah Clancy yesterday morning released a statement on Twitter concerning the dreadful behaviour of various State bodies, including the Minister for Justice, Gardaí and Prison Service, since the conviction last July of the man who abused her as a child and an adolescent. It’s reposted below.

To Whom It Concerns:
Sarah Clancy November 19th 2015

I was contacted this morning first thing by people from our national media who were seeking to get my reaction to a story that features on the front page of The Irish Daily Star.

The story, horribly titled ‘€2million Bill to Guard Disabled Perv’, concerns the State’s handling of a five year prison sentence that was given to a man who abused me as a child and adolescent. Following the court case last July in which the man accepted his guilt for twelve sample counts of indecent assault (reduced in an agreement with the DPP from 26 counts which in turn represented an uncountable number of crimes that were committed against me as a very young person) the man was sent home from Castlerea prison without having been incarcerated for even one night and he has been under something resembling house arrest since then.

Back then, last July, I heard about his release and return from prison only by coming across a front page article which featured me and what had happened to me on a tabloid on the news stand at Shannon Airport. I was there for work and was waiting to collect a group of American tourists who I was due to accompany as tour leader for the following two weeks and throughout that day I fielded media enquiries whilst trying to work in a very public role. Eventually, towards evening it became necessary for me to release a statement in order to buy myself a bit of peace of mind. It was approximately ten days after that before the Guards contacted me in an official capacity to let me know what in fact was happening. The reasoning I was eventually given was that the perpetrator had been returned to his home (or ‘an address’ depending on who I spoke to), until the facilities he needed on account of his disability could be constructed within the prison system. I have never received any explanation for the repeated leaks to the media which most likely came from someone in the prison service. Following these events I complained to the Minister for Justice and insisted that as of then I needed to be kept informed of developments in relation to this case.

Having not been updated for some time I contacted the prison service’s victim liaison office early last week to be informed that the perpetrator was still at ‘an address’ where he was serving his sentence. Two days later, as if I had provoked it, I received a detailed e-mail that explained that the perpetrator was now being afforded temporary release for the remainder of his five year sentence. This e-mail listed the conditions under which his temporary release was granted and these included amongst them the sanction that breach of any of the listed terms could result in his immediate incarceration. Without wanting to be flippant about it, you can see this causes a whole host of contradictions. The man was sentenced to a prison term and was sent home because they could not at that time accommodate him, so now it would appear that they have decided not to accommodate him, because apparently they can’t, but if he breaches any of the conditions they will incarcerate him which somehow then they will be able to do. I know I might seem to be making light of this, but in fact it makes me furious to be treated in this fashion by officialdom, for me it adds insult to injury. This type of disrespectful and illogical communication has been a feature of my dealings with every state institution involved in this case including the HSE, The Gardai, The Prison Service and indeed the Department of Justice and Minister for Justice herself.

Last week following my receipt of the e-mail announcing the news that it had been decided to grant the perpetrator temporary release, I considered making a public statement on it. Whilst having the perpetrator incarcerated was never high on my agenda in pursuing the case, in a wider sense I strongly believe that those who abuse children must be held accountable. In Ireland this is seldom the case, and very often abusers can and do act with impunity here and so despite my unwillingness to devote even more of my life to this case I felt that I must respond in some way. I was aware that it took me more than four years of effort and persistence to have the perpetrator prosecuted and that there were severe costs involved for myself, my family those who supported me and indeed for the family of the perpetrator. It seemed and still does seem to me that it would be disrespectful of the efforts and pain caused to all involved if I was now to allow the state to fudge the issue of enacting the penalty that its justice system deemed necessary.

I had many reservations about becoming publicly involved again. Apart from the personal costs to my own well being, I have always learned and believed that the test of human rights is how one applies them to people who you don’t like rather than to people you agree with and in this case I believed that there was a risk of harm or further indignity being imposed on the perpetrator if I personally commented on it. I was afraid that the situation would be reduced to a story about me, as victim, versus the perpetrator and this was unacceptable to me on a variety of fronts – namely:
1. The perpetrator has a right to privacy and security and to be treated humanely. I was worried that any public statement from me might serve to reveal his whereabouts.
2. The perpetrator has been tried and sentenced and is not responsible for the management of his sentence- the state, the prison service and ultimately the Minister for Justice are responsible for this.

In order to figure out this dilemma I sought advice from my long suffering solicitor and we determined that the best course of action was for me to contact the Galway Rape Crisis Centre and to inform them of the situation. This was done last Friday and on Monday the GRCC contacted the Minister for Justice asking for an explanation which so far has not been forthcoming.

Now, back to this morning, to the Irish Daily Star’s article, which reveals all sorts of things about the perpetrator including his whereabouts; I have been told that yesterday evening (Tuesday 18th November), the Chief Prison Officer visited the perpetrator in his home to seek to have the perpetrator sign a temporary release form and that he was accompanied at that time by journalists and photographers who remained outside the house. If this allegation is true, then the prison service has much more than a problem with *leaks*. This assertion, that the Chief Prison Officer brought or was accompanied by journalists and photographers, if it verified makes a complete mockery of my attempts at dealing maturely and humanely with what has always been and continues to be a difficult situation for me. As citizens and as people living in Ireland we have a right to expect a basic minimum level of public service from the organs of the state. You would imagine that when dealing with the sensitive issue of child sexual abuse that the person reporting could expect to be treated with some level of respect and compassion. This has not been my experience. I have met incompetence, delays and inefficiency. If what I am saying above proves to be accurate, now I am meeting with something far worse than just incompetence.

If this is all true it is without a doubt worthy of investigation. It shows a clear disregard for the rights and the safety of the perpetrator and it demonstrates a complete absence of concern for me or those close to me. The last time I contacted the office of the Department of Justice, the Minister herself Frances Fitzgerald telephoned me on my mobile phone and I had an unsatisfactory and very informal conversation with her. This informal contact by a minister, whilst possibly well motivated, is completely useless for influencing or holding anyone to account as only the minister and I can substantiate what was said. I am uninterested in a personal relationship with the minister or any other official. What I am interested in, is that those employed by the state would carry out their functions with a basic minimum level of competence and honesty and that other people who come forward to report their abuse do not have to deal with the added distress that being treated in this fashion has caused me. I am making my thoughts on this publicly available, here, on the record, and I hope that I can expect that those concerned or mentioned will respond in the same fashion.

– Sarah Clancy