Fears evidence tampered with in five-day school 'sex assault' delay
Gardai fear key evidence in an alleged underage sex assault may have been tampered with after the complaint was not reported to officers for five days.
Detectives have launched a full investigation into a complaint of sexual assault by a 13-year-old student at a west Dublin boarding school.
Yesterday it emerged that eight young teenagers have been suspended following the alleged incident at King's Hospital school in Palmerstown, which happened on Thursday of last week.
The incident was not reported to gardai until Tuesday this week.
The school did not respond to detailed questions from this newspaper about the five-day delay, but confirmed an investigation was underway by the child and family agency Tusla and by gardai.
Sources say the Education Minister, Richard Bruton, is to seek a full briefing on the developments at the school and is "particularly concerned" about the delay. The alleged victim was allegedly sexually assaulted in a dormitory.
Specialist gardai are expected to interview the eight suspended male pupils as part of an investigation which is being led by gardai based in Lucan.
The officers who will conduct the interviews will be specially trained gardai from the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit (DVSAIU).
The development comes after senior sources revealed that gardai are "deeply concerned" that the alleged incident was not reported to them for five days.
"Gardai are unhappy with the delay that occurred in reporting this matter. This is not only because of the obvious child protection issue but like any investigation where a delay in reporting occurs, evidence could have been tampered with," a senior source told the Herald.
"There is very significant concerns about the delay and these concerns have been expressed to the school.
"The school should be aware of their obligations and they have a duty to report matters like this in a timely fashion and that did not happen in this case," the source added.
The eight pupils will remain suspended until investigations are completed. However, the victim will remain on in school, with the agreement of his parents.
The school is a co-educational Church of Ireland secondary school, whose alumni include well-known figures from the worlds of politics, broadcasting, sport and music.
Parents pay upwards of €15,580 every academic year to send their children to the school.
The figure rises for non European students.
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, broadcaster Kathryn Thomas and singing duo Jedward are among the school's former pupils.
Most of the school's 700 students are boarders.
The Church of Ireland issued a brief statement, naming the school, and expressing concern about the allegations.
"We express our sincere concern and offer our thoughts and prayers for the child and family at the centre of this incident," a joint statement from Archbishop Richard Clarke, Archbishop Michael Jackson and Bishop Pat Storey read.
"We trust that the process of investigation by the statutory authorities will bring about a just outcome, and we also pray for the well-being of the pupils and staff of the school at this difficult time."
A statement from Tusla said it does not comment on individual cases.
"However, where a child protection concern is received it is assessed in line with 'Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children'," the statement said.