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Commission into Bill Kenneally’s crimes to begin hearing witnesses early next year as survivors ‘disgusted’ by data breach –

File photo from 1980s of convicted paedophile Bill Kenneally.

File photo from 1980s of convicted paedophile Bill Kenneally.

Image: Used with permission from RTÉ

THE COMMISSION OF Investigation into what level of knowledge agencies like the gardaí and the Waterford Diocese had into the crimes committed by convicted paedophile Bill Kenneally is set to begin hearing witnesses early in the new year. 

The Hickson Commission first began its work on 5 November 2018. 

It’s been in the headlines this week after it emerged that a USB key held by the Department of Justice containing personal data relating to the investigation was lost in transit between two Department buildings. 

The development was reported by a number of media outlets this week. The USB key, which was encrypted, was lost at some point before May of last year.

It has not been found, and speaking to this week a survivor of Kenneally’s abuse said he and other survivors were “disgusted” by news of the data breach. 

A Department of Justice spokesperson told this website that the department notified the Data Protection Commission (DPC) once it had been notified of the loss, in line with data protection laws and that the DPC had conducted its own probe. 

Abuse survivor Jason Clancy said that he and others had been “really upset” by news of the data breach. 

Clancy said they weren’t made aware of the data breach until he was phoned by a journalist and said that it represented a “huge breach of trust”. 

“We knew nothing about it,” he said.

“For that USB to be floating around a street in Dublin […] it’s absolutely shocking to find out about this through the media. It beggars belief.”

20161004_140446 Jason Clancy
Source: Garreth MacNamee/

Clancy’s original complaint in 2012 led to Kenneally being arrested, charged and convicted of 10 sample counts of sexual assault against 10 boys between 1984 and 1987.

In February 2016, Kenneally was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Keneally has since been charged with separate counts of sexual assault against three boys.

Formally established in November 2018, the commission chaired by retired circuit judge Mr Justice Barry Hickson had a number of terms of reference to follow.

Hickson said at the time: “This Commission will inquire into what, if any, level of knowledge of the offences committed by Bill Kenneally was held by a number of organisations including An Garda Síochána, the Waterford Diocese, the South Eastern Health Board, Basketball Ireland and certain political figures in the relevant time period.”

That commission has been working over the past two years, collecting witness statements and gathering documents to complete its work, and reach a position where it could begin hearing from witnesses directly.

Jason Clancy said that his understanding was that a number of separate legal issues had meant that it wouldn’t be possible to commence with witness hearings this year. 

“The commission is working away,” he said. “From what we’ve been told we expect hearings to commence early in the new year.”

In the meantime, solicitor Darragh Mackin – who represents a number of the survivors of Kenneally – has written to the Department of Justice regarding the recently publicised data breach which dates back to 2019 and are seeking to clarify why they weren’t informed sooner.

Clancy said: “That’s the issue. That’s the breach of trust. People are human, they make mistakes. This [commission of] investigation is about looking at things that have been swept under the carpet. That’s the whole reason we’re in an inquiry in the first place. 

We’re very upset by it all. I actually can’t believe it happened.
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The Department of Justice said that as the risk of personal data being compromised was deemed low given the encryption on the USB stick, the breach was deemed “closed” following the investigation from the Data Protection Commission in mid-June.

The subsequent investigation into the breach found that a thorough search of both premises didn’t lead to the discovery of the USB stick, An Post indicated that no USB stick was identified in their recovery/reclaim unit, and that the device was encrypted with data that had previously been uploaded to the commission’s secure system. 

The spokesperson said: “As the data contained on the USB stick continued to be available to the Commission and the missing USB stick was encrypted to industry standard the risk to individuals whose personal data was on the USB stick was evaluated (as required by legislation) and found to be low as, any third party finding the USB stick would be unable to access any information contained.”

The department spokesperson also confirmed that the Hickson Commission currently remains at an “investigative stage” and has not yet heard from all witnesses.

The spokesperson added: “The Commission is tasked with the investigation of the state of knowledge (or otherwise) of a number of organisations (including State bodies) and individuals into the activities of Mr Kenneally and whether they failed to take appropriate action in this regard.

“At the time the Commission was established Mr Kenneally was serving a sentence in relation to a number of sample counts pertaining to numerous complainants. Two further sets of criminal proceedings have also since been instituted. These criminal processes have not concluded.

“It is explicitly set out at paragraph 2 of the Terms of Reference (S.I.  No. 311 of 2018) that in relation to the conduct of its work ‘the Commission shall have due regard to any criminal prosecution currently in train or pending, that may be affected by evidence adduced at the Commission’.”

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