Woman who claims she was sexually abused while in State care begins legal action

Woman has brought a High Court challenge over the Data Protection Commissioner's handling of her complaint against the Child and Family Agency
Woman who claims she was sexually abused while in State care begins legal action

A woman who claims she was sexually abused while in state care has brought a High Court challenge over the Data Protection Commissioner's handling of her complaint against the Child and Family Agency.

The woman claims that the Commissioner has unduly delayed in making a decision regarding a complaint, over a Freedom of Information request she made about her case file to the Child and Family Agency (CFA), she lodged over 15 months ago.

The High Court heard that from the age of three years, until she turned 18, the woman had been in state care. She was initially in the care of the HSE, and latterly the CFA when that entity came into being in 2014.

She alleges that when she was in care, she experienced several unnecessary moves to various foster placements.

Foster placements

She claims while in one foster placement, over 15 years ago when she was of primary school age, she was raped by an older male foster child, sexually abused, physically assaulted, emotionally abused and verbally intimidated.

She claims that as a result of what happened to her, she has been left with lifetime emotional scars, and has sued the CFA for alleged negligence.

The woman, who is now aged in her twenties, cannot be identified by order of the court.

As part of her damages claim she sought, under a freedom of information request, the social work file kept on her by the CFA.

However, she claims that the CHA has failed to provide her with the entirety of the file. She claims that there has been an undue level of unjustified and unnecessary redaction in the material furnished to her.

Handling of requests

While some progress was made, but claims that she has only been provided with parts of her file and in a piecemeal fashion.

Arising out of the CFA's handling of her requests for her file the woman made a complaint to the DPC in July 2020.

She believed that her complaint would be dealt quickly and within a matter of months, or at the very least she would be told when she should expect a decision to be made by the DPC.

Over the last year she sought updates from the DPC in relation to her complaint, and was prepared to give some leeway due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, she claims that her complaint has not been processed some 15 months after it was lodged, and she has not been informed by the DPC when she can expect a decision to be made.

As a result, she has brought judicial review proceedings against the DPC. She seeks various orders, including one compelling it to immediately investigate her July 2020 complaint against the CFA and to issue a decision in respect of her complaint.

She also seeks several declarations from the court including the failure by DPC to investigate her complaint in an expeditious manner is unreasonable, irrational and amounts to an inexcusable delay.

She further seeks a declaration that the DPC failed to carry out an investigation into her complaints within a reasonable time as required under the requirements of GDPR and the 2018 Data Protection Act.

The matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan, who granted the applicant's lawyers permission, on an ex-parte basis, to bring the proceedings. The judge adjourned the matter to a date in December.

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