The injustice of shoddy recordkeeping
Prosecuting or defending a case is a vital democratic right, but one that’s easily undermined by poor recordkeeping.
Mother and Baby Home Commission destroys witness testimony
The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has written to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission over the destruction of recordings of witness testimony.
A total of 550 people provided personal accounts to the confidential committee as part of a five-year investigation into mother and baby homes, however, these recordings have been destroyed and no verbatim transcripts were made of the testimony.
“Survivors who gave evidence to the commission in good faith have stated that the record of their testimony was presented incorrectly, the recordings would have served as a means of verifying and allowing them to correct their written record to reflect the testimony they gave,” said Maree Ryan-O’Brien of adoption rights group Aitheantas.
Read more: Irish Examiner, 2 February 2021
Tusla’s unacceptable child protection lapses
An examination of a selection of complaints received by the Ombudsman’s office, as well as those filed directly with Tusla, has highlighted “serious failings” in how the agency carries out its role.
Among the findings of Tyndall’s report are: undue delay in dealing with abuse allegations; people against whom allegations have been made not fully informed of alleged details; inconsistencies in policy implementation; poor note-taking and record-keeping; poor communication; inadequate training for staff in some policies; and failure to always tell complainants they can seek a review by the Ombudsman. Tyndall said the rights of those accused were breached in some cases.
Read more: Irish Times, 24 July 2017
Archivist comes forward with boys’ home records thought to be missing
Greg Harding’s search for records from Newcastle’s St Albans boys’ home had been relentless but unsuccessful.
The former cop had pursued convicted paedophile and ex-board member of St Albans, James Michael Brown, and was alarmed by the apparent lack of documentation.
“We certainly looked for documents in relation to it, but in all my searches nothing turned up regarding who went through and actually who managed the homes or who had control of the boys,” he said.
When Mr Harding’s story went public, archivist Gionni Di Gravio came forward, reporting that the records were held in the university’s Archives of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.
“We have children’s homes records that have been here since at least the 1980s, so I was surprised the policeman wasn’t told that they existed,” Mr Di Gravio said.
“You can’t always be sure that everything that has been created has survived, but there’s a bit to keep a lot of people occupied.”
Read more: ABC, 10 June 2016
Anglican Church says police officer knew about boys’ home archives
The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle says it has found an email which shows a police officer was told about boys’ home archives, contrary to his claims.
Earlier this month the detective told the ABC his search for St Albans boys’ home records turned up nothing and he was never aware archives were stored at the University of Newcastle.
The Diocese’s Director of Professional Standards Michael Elliott said he sent a 2010 email, telling the detective about the records.
“I personally searched through our archived records on hand at the University of Newcastle and advised detectives what records were available.”
Mr Elliott said abuse survivors could have confidence in the church’s recordkeeping.
When first approached about the allegations of missing records the Diocese told the ABC it still retained some historical records from St Albans, but did not mention the university archives.
Read more: ABC, 21 June 2016
Thousands of Victorians deprived of life-changing information
Incompetent recordkeeping is depriving thousands of Victorians of life-changing information, but the Department of Human Services has ”a profound conflict of interest” because fixing the problem would allow a rush of lawsuits, a parliamentary inquiry was told.
Some 90 per cent of DHS records are not properly managed, and the increasing amount of electronic data is making the problem worse, the Victorian inquiry into how the churches have handled sex abuse heard.
Debbie Prout of the Records and Information Management Professionals of Australasia said by law the department had to ensure records were accessible and discoverable, but the more it did the higher the chance of lawsuits would be.
Ms Prout said the record deficit particularly impacted on the most vulnerable, such as former wards of state, who could not find out information such as surviving relatives or material they could use in seeking compensation.
She said Ombudsman and Auditor-General’s reports showed that recordkeeping compliance breaches were ”prolific, recurring and have high risk implications”.
”There is no agency monitoring, no agency compliance reporting, no defined community complaints process, and the penalties for destruction are woeful.”
Read more: The Age, 6 April 2013