The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016 provides a statutory basis for the vetting of persons carrying out relevant work with children or vulnerable persons.
Section 12(1) of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 (“2012 Act”) provides that a relevant organisation shall not employ any person to undertake relevant work or activities, enter into a contract for services with any person or permit any person to undertake relevant work or activities on behalf of the organisation unless the organisation has received a vetting disclosure from the National Vetting Bureau in respect of that person.
A “relevant organisation” is defined in section 2 of the Act as a person (including a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons) who:
- employs (whether under contract of employment or otherwise) any person to undertake relevant work or activities,
- enters into a contract for services with any person to undertake relevant work or activities on the person’s behalf,
- permits any person (whether or not for commercial or any other consideration) to undertake relevant work or activities on the person’s behalf,
- is a provider of courses of education or training, including internship schemes, for persons and, as part of such education or training or scheme, places or makes arrangements for the placement of any person in work experience or activities where a necessary part of the placement involves participation in relevant work or activities.
Section 2 of the 2012 Act defines “relevant work” as work or activities relating to children or vulnerable persons.
In circumstances where relevant organisations do not adhere to the provisions of the Act, they may be liable to penalties including a fine up to €10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both.
The number of vetting applications received by An Garda Síochána has risen substantially in recent years, up from 390,000 applications in 2016 to 520,000 in 2018.
In December 2018, a new compliance unit was set up as part of the National Vetting Bureau to carry out regular checks on relevant organisations to ensure they are complying with the Acts.
On Tuesday, 7 May 2019, the Garda Vetting conference took place in Croke Park. An Garda Síochána has advised voluntary and community organisations that work with children and vulnerable people, of the need for them to be compliant with vetting legislation. An Garda Síochána will provide advice and guidance to relevant organisations to help ensure compliance, however, relevant organisations are being advised that they are liable for prosecution for significant and/or repeated breaches of the Acts.
Speaking at the conference, Deputy Garda Commissioner John Twomey said:
“Vetting is a core policing function. And that function is the protection of children and vulnerable people.
“As such, vetting can be seen as often the first line of defence in keeping children and vulnerable people safe. That is why we take such care to make sure we get our vetting right.
“In the first instance, the focus of compliance will be to promote best practice amongst relevant organisations, for example, through the facilitation of knowledge sharing amongst relevant organisations where good practice has been established.
“We would all like to work to a situation where such action would not be necessary and today’s conference is in part to help organisations ensure they are meeting the required standard. But where there are significant and repeated failings then investigations will take place and prosecutions may be recommended. That is our responsibility.”
A copy of An Gardaí Síochána’s press release can be seen here.