There are a number of professional or regulatory organisations who must have their wits about them, due to increased reporting requirements under the vetting legislation.
This week we look at Schedule 2 of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 – 2016. The title of Schedule 2 is: ‘Organisations Required to Notify Specified Information to Bureau’. This is a list of organisations that the vetting legislation says must now report to the Vetting Bureau when ‘specified information’ comes to their attention.
QUICK RECAP: THE 3 VETTING SCHEDULES
You may recall that there are three Schedules to the vetting legislation.
Last week we looked at Schedule 1, which is split into two parts.
Part 1 of Schedule 1 deals with ‘relevant work or activities relating to children’. Part 2 of Schedule 1 deals with ‘relevant work or activities relating to vulnerable persons’. Schedule 1 exists for one main purpose. People and organisations carry out a wide range of work and activities with children. They do the same with vulnerable persons. The Schedules to the legislation let the reader know if that work triggers vetting (or not).
WHAT’S THE POINT OF SCHEDULE 2?
Schedule 2, by contrast, plays a very different role.
The title of Schedule 2 is: ‘Organisations Required to Notify Specified Information to Bureau’.
So, Schedule 2 isn’t about who does vetting, or doesn’t do vetting.
Instead, it’s about creating a new statutory duty upon certain types of organisations.
That duty says, in certain circumstances, they must contact the National Vetting Bureau.
(The title of Schedule 3 is "Excluded Offences for Purposes of Section 14A").
A NEW STATUTORY DUTY: REPORTING SPECIFIED INFORMATION
The new statutory duty is, in the main, to do with something called ‘specified information’ - and what the ‘scheduled organisations’ do with this ‘specified information’.
(More on 'specified information' below).
In the defined terms to the National Vetting Bureau Acts, it talks about ‘scheduled organisations’. It says that a ‘scheduled organisation’ is one that listed in Schedule 2 (hence, ‘scheduled’).
THE LIST OF SCHEDULED ORGANISATIONS
This is the list of ‘scheduled organisations’:
- 1. The Health Service Executive.
- 2. The Teaching Council.
- 3. The Medical Council.
- 4. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland.
- 5. The Dental Council.
- 6. The Health and Social Care Professionals Council.
- 7. The Mental Health Commission.
- 8. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland.
- 9. The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council.
- 10. The Health Information and Quality Authority.
- 11. The National Transport Authority.
- 12. The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission
- 12. The Child and Family Agency
Notice that there are two different organisations listed at number 12. This is because these were added by two different pieces of legislation. The people writing the legislation appear not to have checked with one another there was an organisation already listed at number 12.
(The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission was added to the list on 29 April 2016 by the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 (4/2016), s.28, S.I. No. 215 of 2016).
(The Child and Family Agency was added to the list on 1 May 2016 by the Children First Act 2015 (36/2015), s.18, S.I. No. 211 of 2016).
WHAT DO SCHEDULED ORGANISTIONS NEED TO KEEP AN EYE ON?
One section in particular in the vetting laws is very important for organisations listed in Schedule 2.
That section is section 19.
WHY IS SECTION 19 IMPORTANT TO SCHEDULED ORGANISATIONS?
Section 19 of the vetting legislation is important for 'scheduled organisations'.
Because it creates several important obligations for those organisations. These obligations are:
- Statutory Obligation To Notify
- Specific Obligation On The Hse
- Obligation To Notify The Subject Of The Notification
- Obligation To Fix Inaccuracies In Information Notified
- The Appropriate Person To Notify
- Multiple Appropriate Persons
- Nomination And Registration With The Bureau
- The Section 19(8) New Criminal Offence
- Obligation To Notify Bureau & Garda Siochana
Section 19 of the vetting legislation deals with the types of organisations required to notify the National Vetting Bureau if the organisation becomes aware of information that would cross the threshold to be categorised as ‘specified information’.
SO TELL ME, WHAT IS ‘SPECIFIED INFORMATION’?
Colloquially, 'specified information' is sometimes called 'soft information'.
The word 'soft' is used to make a contrast with so-called 'hard' information.
'Hard' information implies e.g. conviction in a criminal court of law.
'Soft' information is information that isn't as 'hard' as 'hard' information.
But 'soft' information is now information that the vetting laws says should, in certain circumstances, be taken into consideration as part of a person's application for a vetting disclosure.
The legislation talks about ‘specified information’ being:
- Information relating to a person
- Applying for a vetting disclosure
- Where the information’s to do with either a finding of harm to another person, or
- Where the information’s to do with an allegation of harm to another person, and
- Where that information is received by the National Vetting Bureau
- From the national policing authority (the Garda Siochana);
- but only where
- The Garda Siochana received that information pursuant to an investigation of an offence, or
- The Garda Siochana received that information pursuant to any other function they hold through legislation or by common law; or
- Where that information is received by the National Vetting Bureau
- One of the so-called ‘Scheduled Organisations’ listed in the legislation (mainly disciplinary and regulatory bodies);
- And where the information is such as to give rise
- To a bona fide concern
- That the person may
- Harm any child or vulnerable person, or
- Cause any child or vulnerable person to be harmed, or
- Put any child or vulnerable person at risk of harm, or
- Attempt to harm any child or vulnerable person, or
- Incite another person to harm any child or vulnerable person
If you want an even closer look at specified information, check out our essay What Is Specified Information and Where Does it Come From?
WHAT DOES SECTION 19 DO?
Section 19 creates two obligations.
- 1, The first obligation is a general obligation on so-called ‘scheduled organisations’ in general to notify the National Vetting Bureau.
- 2. The second obligation is specifically aimed at the Health Service Executive (HSE) which is the state body responsible for the delivery of public health services throughout the Republic of Ireland.
As with other areas in the vetting legislation, the notion of natural justice is very important. As such, when a scheduled organisation decides it is going to make a notification about a person to the National Vetting Bureau, the legislation says it can’t do this in a vacuum: the scheduled organisation is under a statutory duty to inform the person about the notification being made.
It also must ensure that the information contained in the report was accurate, and if it wasn’t accurate, it must update the Bureau of any inaccuracies previously reported.
Finally, section 19 deals with the nomination and appointment of persons as the ‘approprIate person’ (or persons) within the scheduled organisation, who will be responsible for making a notification to the Bureau.
The failure to adhere to the notification requirements, where a valid concern is raised and which is one that meets the statutory threshold, will trigger the commitment of a new criminal offence, which has substantial criminal justice penalties attached to it.
There are three Schedules to the vetting legislation.
In today’s essay we looked at Schedule 2, which lists out a number of so-called ‘scheduled organisations’.
Schedule 2 isn’t about who does vetting, or doesn’t do vetting.
Instead, it’s about creating a new statutory duty upon certain types of organisations. That duty says, in certain circumstances, they must contact the National Vetting Bureau.
Scheduled organisations have to be on top of something called ‘specified information’.
This is a new statutory term that defines the circumstances in which one of the scheduled organisation must pass information to the National Vetting Bureau.
Section 19 of the vetting legislation goes into the nuts and bolts of these new obligations on the scheduled organisations.
Schedule 2 – and section 19 that underpins it – are key parts of the new vetting regime. Understanding them is important.
This essay is for general information and guidance purposes only and, just to be clear, does not constitute legal or other professional advice.
You should always seek your own specific legal advice, from a firm of solicitors, on the application of the law in a situation.
Whilst we used reasonable endeavours to ensure the accuracy of this content, we do not accept any liability for any omissions or errors; or for any action taken in reliance of the information in this essay.