“a request for a PECS check involves checks against criminal records…”

Claims that the police and/or social services face “serious questions” over the employment of Liam Adams as a youth worker in Dundalk and west Belfast after receiving “RUC or PSNI clearance to work in those facilities” are at best mis-informed. Leaving aside an Irish News report quoting a “police source” denying Liam Adams was ever vetted by them, Clonard Youth Centre – where Liam Adams worked between 1998 and 2003 – have been pointing to a Pre Employment Consultancy Service (PECS) form stamped and signed on behalf of the RUC and signed by a representative of social services. As the BBC report also notes, “Beechmount Community Project [where Liam Adams worked between 2004-2006] said he had been cleared to work with children and that the police and social services had “serious questions” to answer.” If there are questions arising from any clearance to work with children Liam Adams received, they are questions to be asked of others. Any prospect of a successful prosecution following Aine Tyrell’s 1987 allegation of abuse by her father, between 1978-1983, ended when, “under pressure”, she decided that she “didn’t want to proceed with the case”.

And, as Gerry Moriarty notes in the Irish Times, as late as 1995 Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was declaring that the RUC were “not acceptable” to deal with child and drug abuse.

Notwithstanding that Mr Adams spoke of his support for his niece in 1987, in January 1995 he said people should not report alleged cases of child or drug abuse to the RUC. This was during the first IRA ceasefire, when Sinn Féin still refused to accept the legitimacy of the RUC.

In late January 1995 Mr Adams told supporters in north Belfast that there were counsellors who could deal with issues of child and drug abuse. “The RUC are not acceptable and, indeed, are using these issues for their own militaristic ends,” he said at the time.

According to the interview with Tommie Gorman, the party’s position changed as Gerry Adams developed his knowledge about child abuse.

The absence of a criminal conviction is important to note. When Aine Tyrell decided not to proceed with the case what remained was an untested allegation of abuse against someone who was at the time living in another jurisdiction – County Donegal.

On to the Pre-Employment Consultancy Service checks.

As this Word doc file from Sport NI states “The Pre-Employment Consultancy Service (PECS) was established in 1981 following an inquiry into children’s homes & hostels as a result of cases of abuse in a children’s hostel (Kincora). The Pre-Employment Consultancy Service is run by the Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety.”

PECS should only be used as part of an overall recruitment policy. It provides organisations registered with PECS in Northern Ireland with one means of checking the suitability of an individual seeking work with children or adults with a learning disability. It is designed to be an information service which provides an additional safeguard which complements and strengthens staff recruitment and selection procedures. The use of PECS by organisations has a deterrent effect but should never be relied upon to screen out all abusers. It is not a foolproof guarantee of suitability. PECS provides a means for accessing any information, which might have a bearing on an individual’s suitability held by the:

• Police (criminal records);
• the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Policy (PECS Register);
• the Department of Education (List 99); and
• Protection of Children Act List (POCAL).

As this Department for Employment and Learning memo [pdf file] notes the Pre-Employment Consultancy Service checks service was replaced by the The Protection of Children (NI) Service [and The Protection of Vulnerable Adults (NI) Service] on 1st April 2005 – after either the Clonard Youth Centre or the Beechmont Community Project would have requested a PECS check on Liam Adams.

The changes came about as a result of the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (Northern Ireland) Order 2003.

As the archived ministerial statement by Angela Smith notes,

PECS is operated by DHSS&PS and a request for a PECS check involves checks against criminal records, records held in relation to those banned from working in schools and the PECS Register. The PECS Register is compiled from information provided by statutory and voluntary organisations in relation to workers who have been dismissed, or who have resigned, or who have been transferred – in circumstances where it is considered that they posed a risk to children or adults with a learning disability. The decision to place a name on the Register is made by DHSSPS in consultation with the Social Services Inspectorate. [added emphasis]

As a result of The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) (Disclosure) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008, there is now a possible check that may have revealed the 1987 allegations – although it’s not guaranteed.

From the Explanatory Memorandum [pdf file]

(3) BACKGROUND AND INTRODUCTION

3.1 At present, the system for using police records in employment checking is by arrangement rather than statute. There are a number of inherent weaknesses to this system, in particular there is often uncertainty both as to the type of information which can be released and to the scope of organisations and individuals who can receive it. Further, the lack of a comprehensive system creates the possibility of abuse of the subject access rights available to individuals under the Data Protection Act 1984, where employers or others require individuals to apply to the PSNI for a copy of their full criminal record.

In 2008 Access NI took over the administration of the system for providing organisations with criminal history information about anyone seeking paid or unpaid work in certain defined areas.

And as this NSPCC doucment notes [pdf file]

For Enhanced Disclosures only, AccessNI will ask relevant Police Forces throughout the UK for any additional non-conviction material, including cases pending, which the Police consider relevant for Disclosure.

Whereas, from the same document, the new basic and standard checks indicate the likely extent of earlier “criminal records” checks

WHAT IS ACTUALLY CHECKED
AccessNI searches the following databases for every application.
• The Criminal Record Viewer – which contains the NI criminal record, and
• The Police National Computer – which contains the GB criminal record. In respect of a basic check the “spent” element of the criminal record is removed. For Standard and Enhanced checks, the full record is disclosed.

i.e. a check on spent and unspent criminal convictions.

More on Enhanced Disclosures here.

And the Vetting and Barring Scheme is now in place.

So any deficiencies in the vetting system have already been identified and, as far as possible, addressed.

But back to a key phase in the recent history of this case – when Liam Adams was working at Clonard Youth Centre between 1998 and 2003.

Gerry Adams has stated that “When I heard that he was working in youth facilities again I pressed him to leave and with one of the facilities I reported it to the authorities which were responsible for that facility [Clonard].”

But as I noted in the update to this post

Spokesperson Brendan Dineen said the centre had reviewed all its documentation “and there is no record whatsoever regarding concerns about Mr Liam Adams during his time of employment at Clonard Youth Centre”.

That absence of a record of anyone raising concerns about Liam Adams is significant.

If the authorities at Clonard Youth Centre removed Liam Adams from his position as a result of information provided by Gerry Adams – as he implied – then it would appear that under the The Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 they had a duty to refer Liam Adams’ name to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for inclusion on the “list of individuals considered unsuitable to work with children”.

Of course, Liam Adams would then have had the opportunity to appeal against that decision…

And the questions that remain about this particular part of the story?

Who exactly did Gerry Adams inform about the allegations against his brother Liam in connection with Clonard Youth Centre? And if on that basis the authorities at Clonard then took action against Liam Adams, why did they not refer his name to the Department for inclusion on the relevant list?