Sunday Independent

**I am running this story, the older one from the BBC and the 2 part article from the Observer about the exploitation of children for sexual purposes because I think this is one of the most horrendous evils in society. This article here about Curtin points up the fact that even though people in authority KNOW about such things, they turn a blind eye and allow it to go unchecked.


Jim Cusack

GARDAI have admitted they failed to tell the Minister for Justice that Judge Brian Curtin was named as an alleged internet paedophile, three months before he was appointed to the Circuit Court.

Curtin was on a list of alleged internet paedophiles handed to gardai by Interpol in August 2001, before he was appointed to the Circuit Court by then Minister for Justice and fellow Kerryman, John O'Donoghue.

In that three months, Gardai confirmed yesterday they did not pass on any information to Mr O'Donoghue or his Department about the appearance of Curtin's name on Interpol's list of 100 Irish men who had used credit cards to access an American-runpaedophile internet site.

And it is also appears that neither the Minister nor his Department sought information about Curtin's suitability before he was recommended to Cabinet for appointment to the Circuit Court.

The disclosure was contained in the middle of a 2,700-word statement by Mr McDowell last June but its significance was lost in the highly-charged atmosphere of the launch of the local and European election campaigns.

The Government had pointed the finger of blame at the Judicial Appointments Commission which had the responsibility for ensuring Curtin's "suitability" for selection to the Bench.

However, senior legal sources now say that the Commission and the then Attorney General, Michael McDowell, now Minister for Justice, did not have the power to ask the GardaCommissioner if there was any issue of concern arising over the appointment. That power, the sources say, resided in the office of the Minister for Justice and in hisDepartment.

At the time gardai received the file from Interpol, Curtin was already a rising figure with two State appointments - to the Garda Complaints Appeals Board in May 2001 and to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in August 2001.

Asked yesterday if he, as then Minister for Justice, had made any inquiries about Curtin's suitability to be a judge before recommending him to the Cabinet in November 2001, a spokesman for John O'Donoghue said: "Minister O'Donoghue followed all the usual procedures and it has never been the practice for a Minister for Justice to make police inquiries about private individuals who are recommended for judicial office by the statutory, established Judicial AppointmentsCommission. "The Minister, prior to [Curtin's] appointment, was never aware of any accusation against Judge Curtin. Under the relevant legislation the determination of a person's suitability is not confined to legal suitability. It is general suitability."

Yesterday, the Garda confirmed that it had received the Interpol file containing Curtin's name in August 2001yet did nothing to inform the Government.

A spokesman told the Sunday Independent: "An Garda Siochana received information which disclosed suspected offences by a number of individuals in this jurisdiction. This information related to the accessing of certain internet sites.

"On the 28th August, 2001, Operation Amethystcommenced to investigate those suspected of committing the alleged offences. This investigation necessitatedinquiries to be conducted both nationally and in other jurisdictions.

"The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform was not advised of the investigation between August, 2001, and the appointment of the named person, as the Garda investigation was ongoing during that period."

Last May, the Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, pointed out that Mr McDowell, the then Attorney General, was a member of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board which recommended the appointment of Curtin as judge of the Circuit Court in 2001.

Mr Kenny said then: "I understand that Minister McDowell made inquiries about Mr Curtin prior to that appointment being approved by the Cabinet."

He called on Mr McDowell to clarify if he made such inquiries and, if he did, whether he received any information which might have affected Mr Curtin's suitability for appointment as a judge.

"I also want to know which members of the Cabinet, or members of the Progressive Democrats party, lobbied Mr McDowell on Brian Curtin's behalf," Mr Kenny asked.

In response to Mr Kenny's statement, the Progressive Democrats insisted that they had never lobbied for Curtin's appointment. It is not clear why Curtin was appointed a judge in November 2001.

A special Oireachtas Committee has been set up and is now examining the case of Curtin, which has created one of the biggest constitutional and legal problems facing the Government in recent times.

Curtin was acquitted at Tralee Circuit Court in May this year. The Government faces huge constitutional and legal problems if it continues to attempt to impeach him.

The case against Curtin collapsed after the court heard evidence that the Garda failed to execute the warrant for his arrest within the seven-day period allotted in the warrant.

No explanation has been given to date as to why the gardai waited until the warrant had expired before executing it to search his Tralee home and seize his computer in May 2002.

The internal garda inquiry into the warrant affair has not produced any disciplinary proceedings and the officer in charge of executing the warrant has since been promoted.

Until now, despite repeated requests, the Garda had refused to disclose when they first received the file from Interpol containing Judge Curtin's name.

However, when asked directly if the file arrived in August 2001, Garda Headquarters finally agreed yesterday this was the case.

This means that the name of Brian Curtin, already a prominent legal figure, commentator and former Progressive Democrat member in Munster, was known to the Garda and this information could be available toGovernment.

The Garda file on the Curtin case, presumably containing the detail of when it received the Interpol file in August 2001, along with another file from the Director of Public Prosecutions, was passed to the Government within weeks of the collapse of Curtin's trial on April 22 last.

A month later, in reply to questions from Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny about whether or not any inquiries were made about Curtin's suitability prior to his appointment, the Taoiseach told the Dail: "There is nothing to suggest the Minister made any inquiries or received any representations on the appointment of Judge Curtin. Judge Curtin was one of a list of persons approved for appointment to a vacancy in the Circuit Court by the judicial appointments advisory committee."

Mr Ahern then said that at the time of the appointment, the current Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, was Attorney General and "was aware of no matter which could adversely affect the suitability for appointment to the Bench."

Senior legal sources say the Government's responses to questions about whether checks were made on Curtin's suitability have, so far, avoided the fact that itwas within the power of the Minister for Justice to make inquiries of the GardaCommissioner.

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