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Foster parent charged with having drugs worth €830 000

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on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 08:32
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A MAN charged with possessing drugs worth almost €830,000 and who has previous convictions is a foster parent and has applied to foster another child, the High Court was told yesterday.

This follows reports last week and over the weekend that many foster families are not vetted by An Garda Síochána, and that children in certain areas are being placed with families with criminal convictions and a history of alcohol abuse.

A spokeswoman for the Health Service Executive said yesterday almost 88 per cent of foster parents have received clearance, including Garda vetting.

During a bail hearing yesterday the High Court heard that the man was arrested following a high-speed chase through a housing estate.

After his arrest, a key to a van was found and the van was found to contain cannabis, cocaine and a “head-shop” drug with street values of €290,000, €520,000 and €17,000 respectively, along with a shotgun and ammunition. Keys to a safe and to an address were also found. The safe, found in the bathroom of the dwelling, contained €118,000 in cash.

The court heard the man has a number of convictions, of which the most serious was for dangerous driving causing death, for which he was imprisoned for three years in 2005 and disqualified from driving for five years. In 2006 he received a second conviction for a dangerous driving offence, which took place in 2005. He also has a conviction for assault.

His counsel told the court the man’s partner was pregnant and he had access visits with a child from a previous relationship. He was fostering one child, who was a family member, and had applied to foster another.

Mr Justice Paul Butler set bail at the man’s bond of €100 and an independent surety of €40,000, or two independent sureties of €20,000, stressing they had to be genuinely independent.

He also said he should observe a curfew between midnight and 7am, report daily to his local Garda station, surrender his passport, provide the Garda with his mobile phone number and be available to them at all times.

Asked to comment on the vetting of foster parents, a spokeswoman for the HSE said: “At the end of December 2011, 85 per cent of foster carers had been approved by a foster care panel. Approval includes Garda clearance.

“Children who are received into the care of the HSE are generally placed in family situations, either with their relatives or with general foster carers.

“In some cases, the timescale within which a child requires a placement does not provide time for full clearance in advance of the placement, particularly in emergency situations where a family member may be identified as an appropriate placement.

“This decision to place a child is based upon a risk assessment of the family. In these circumstances, the vetting procedures are followed as soon as possible after the placement has commenced.”

CAROL COULTER, Legal Affairs Editor