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Review into Child Sexual Abuse at St. John Ambulance Ireland (March 2023)
Coleman Legal LLP
Mar 16, 2023

The Review into the handling of complaints of sexual abuse by St John Ambulance Ireland has today been shared with survivors. 

The review was carried out by Dr. Geoffrey Shannon and was commissioned in March 2021. 

Dr. Shannon is the former child protection rapporteur. Dr. Shannon’s 230-page report outlined testimony given by survivors of horrific abuse from the early 1970s. 

It wasn’t until mid-2010 that adequate child protection measures were in place in the organisation. 

In the late 1990s, despite a full disclosure of serious grooming and sexual abuse the organisation did not initiate a formal investigation. 

Most of the complaints relate to a senior officer in the Old Kilmainham division of the organisation, although Dr. Shannon reports that testimony was also received suggesting that there may have been more than one perpetrator of abuse and grooming.

View Full Report Here

Lack of response

The report uncovers a shocking failure to act by the organisation when complaints were made. 

Initial complaints of abuse were not referred to the Gardai or other statutory bodies. 

Dr. Shannon describes that this was partly based on a fear of litigation, but the mainly in order to protect the reputation of St. John Ambulance. 

This was done at the expense of victims and the ordinary members of the organisation. 

Indeed the review was only commissioned in 2021 despite the fact that in 2019 TUSLA had found allegations of child sexual abuse in the organisation to be credible.

Dr. Shannon described this lack of meaningful action of a traumatisation and re-victimisation for survivors of the abuse.

The report concluded that the hierarchical structure that still exists in the organisation facilitated abuse in the past, and protected abusers.

Dr. Shannon found that this was not appropriate for a fit-for-purpose child protection and safeguarding culture.

TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency

In 2019, the then Chief Executive Officer of TUSLA wrote to the Minister for Children and other Government officials stating that there were no concerns with regard to St. John Ambulance and deemed it to have a compliant safeguarding statement. 

The findings of Dr. Shannon’s report would indicate that this was not the case.

Response of St John Ambulance

The Board of St. John Ambulance have today shared a letter with survivors accepting the findings of the report. 

They have apologised to the victim-survivors stating:

“We are sincerely sorry for the hurt that was caused to you, your families and your friends, by the failings in our organisation.”

The letter also stated that the organisation would implement all of the report’s recommendations.

TUSLA has established a reporting helpline to support anybody with a concern regarding historical or current child protection at St. John Ambulance- 045 839375

Keith Rolls Partner Coleman Legal LLP

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