FAQs on the Witness Statement Gathering Process

As part of the Clann initiative, ARA and JFMR are working with Hogan Lovells, a global law firm which is providing pro bono assistance to us in compiling statements, documentary materials and legal analysis. You can learn about how to avail of the witness statement drafting assistance here and the FAQs below offer further details on the process. If you cannot find the answer to your question, please read our FAQs on the Commission of Investigation or feel free to contact us.

How will my statement be used?

This process is operating under strict Ethical Protocols; information gathered will be kept in the strictest confidence and you have full control over how your statement is used. All drafts of your statement (and any supporting documents you provide) will be confidential to you and Hogan Lovells. JFMR and ARA will not have access to your statement and documents unless you sign a Consent Form giving your permission.

You will have several options in relation to your statement:

  • Once your statement is finalised, Hogan Lovells will send a final copy to you and you will have the choice either to send it to the Commission of Investigation yourself, to ask Hogan Lovells to send it on your behalf or to retain it yourself. You can discuss the matter further with Hogan Lovells if you wish and we would invite you then to complete the Consent Form which will be provided at the end of the process as regards the use of the statement. It is not possible to anonymise statements that are sent to the Commission as they must be signed.  However, it is possible to avoid naming third parties in your statement if you wish.

 

  • Hogan Lovells will ask you whether you wish to give ‘live evidence’ to the Commission’s Investigation Committee or its Confidential Committee (which does not involve any questioning of the witness), in addition to sending your statement to the Commission. You are under no obligation to do so. (Please note that if you wish simply to send your statement to the Commission but not give ’live evidence’ to the Commission in person, the statement will need to be attached to an affidavit and sworn by you in front of a solicitor. Hogan Lovells will provide you with more information about how to do this, if needed.) If you wish to do so, Hogan Lovells will send you the application forms for giving ‘live evidence’ to the Commission if you have not already obtained them yourself from the Commission (e.g. via its website). The Commission has said that there is no requirement to bring a legal representative to hearings before the Investigation Committee, and the Commission will not reimburse the costs of retaining such representation. Nonetheless, we recommend that you bring a legal representative to the Investigation Committee. If you are availing of the free witness statement drafting assistance provided by Hogan Lovells, let them know if you would like to have legal representation at a hearing and they will do their best to organise local lawyers who will be able to provide pro bono (free) legal representation for you at the hearing.

 

  • You will have the option to agree that ARA and JFMR can use anonymous extracts from your statement and any documents provided by you to form part of the Clann group submissions. These group submissions will be submitted to the Commission of Investigation, the Irish Government and international human rights bodies, and may also be used elsewhere in public in an effort to raise awareness about the treatment of unmarried mothers, their children and their family members in Ireland. Those who consent to extracts from their statements or documents being included as part of our submissions will not have their identities revealed and we will do all we can to avoid anyone being able to identify you. For an example of how this works, please see Justice for Magdalenes’ Principal Submission to the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Magdalene Laundries.  If you consent to extracts from your statement being used by ARA and/or JFMR, this will happen only in the manner to which you agree on the Consent Form.

How does the witness statement gathering process work?

  1. Those who would like help in compiling their witness statements should contact Clann at statements@clannproject.org or via post at Rod Baker, Hogan Lovells International LLP, Atlantic House, Holborn Viaduct, London, EC1A 2FG, UK;
  2. Hogan Lovells will then send you a Preliminary Questionnaire to fill in;
  3. The Preliminary Questionnaire will enable you to provide certain basic information to Hogan Lovells and indicates that by returning it to Hogan Lovells you consent to that basic information being shared with ARA and JFMR;
  4. Once the completed questionnaire is received, Hogan Lovells will make arrangements to interview you;
  5. Hogan Lovells will compile the statement and send a draft to you;
  6. You return the draft statement to Hogan Lovells with any amendments;
  7. Hogan Lovells will then send you a finalised statement, along with a Consent Form to complete and sign.

How does the interview process work?

Once you have returned your Preliminary Questionnaire, Hogan Lovells will contact you to arrange an interview.  With your permission, your interview might be recorded by a representative from Hogan Lovells.  You can ask the interviewer to stop the recording at any time. A draft statement will then be prepared and a copy will be sent to you for your approval. At this point you may wish to amend the draft statement.  As the Commission appears to be interested in reviewing supporting documentation, Hogan Lovells will ask you to consider providing relevant documentation to attach to your statements. When your statement is finalised, a copy will be sent to you for final approval and signature.

I live outside Ireland – can I still provide information?

Yes, Hogan Lovells are happy to interview people who fall into the categories above, regardless of where they live.  Most interviews will be conducted by telephone in any event.

Does it matter that my agency/institution is not listed on the Schedule to the Terms of Reference for the Commission of Investigation?

While the Schedule to the Terms of Reference for the Commission of Investigation lists just 14 institutions (and the Commission has added 4 County Homes), Section 6 of the Terms of Reference states that:

The Commission may include in its reports any recommendation that it considers appropriate, including recommendations in relation to relevant matters identified in the course of its investigation which it considers may warrant further investigation in the public interest. In any event, on the completion of the Report on the wider social and historical context required under Article (11) the Commission shall report to the Minister on whether it considers specific matters not included in the existing scope may warrant further investigation as part of the Commission’s work in the public interest.

JFMR and ARA have urged the Commission to ask the Minister to broaden the scope of its Terms of Reference, and we will continue to do so. With this in mind, we are interested in interviewing anyone with a connection to adoption, Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries and similar institutions in Ireland, regardless of whether your institution was listed on the Schedule.  Please be advised that ARA, JFMR and Hogan Lovells have no control over the outcome of the Commission of Investigation or whether the Commission will seek to have its scope broadened but we intend to continue to advocate the extension of the Commission’s terms of reference.

Those who did not attend one of the listed institutions should be aware that the Commission might reject their statement or refuse to invite them to give oral evidence. However, ARA and JFMR will still use this evidence in their group submissions.

I have already given evidence to the Commission, can I still provide information?

Yes, Hogan Lovells are happy to interview people who have already given evidence to the Commission of Investigation. Additional details may come to mind during the interview and in this instance you may wish to send the statement into the Commission, to add to the evidence you have already submitted. You may also find it helpful to have a written statement for safe-keeping or future use, even if you have already been to the Commission of Investigation. In addition, if you consent to your statement being used by ARA and JFMR, your information could greatly assist the ARA and JFMR group submissions.

Can I avail of assistance with my statement if I do not wish to share it with ARA and JFMR?

Yes. You are under no obligation to share your statement with ARA and JFMR and your information will only be used in the manner to which you agree.

Can the team assist me in obtaining redress/compensation?

JFMR and ARA have no control over the outcome of this process, nor do we have any control over what the Commission might recommend in terms of providing redress.

If you wish to seek legal advice regarding any potential claim that you might have regarding your experiences that is entirely your choice. Hogan Lovells will be able to suggest specialist solicitors whom you may wish to contact. Once your statement has been compiled by Hogan Lovells, you will be free to use it however you choose.

Should I make a complaint to the Gardaí?

Clann encourages those who believe that their witness statement contains evidence of criminal behaviour to make a complaint to the police (An Garda Síochana). JFMR and ARA cannot give legal advice. However, if an individual would like free legal advice about any matters contained in their witness statement, Clann encourages those individuals to ask the solicitors from Hogan Lovells, who will be assisting them in drafting a witness statement, for further direction.

How will my confidentiality be protected?

Your identity and contact details will be kept in confidence under strict security protocols (available here) and only ARA, JFMR and Hogan Lovells will have access to them.

If any use is made of your statement this will be done in a way that ensures your anonymity is protected. Witnesses are free to use their own statements for any purpose they see fit, and if they choose, they can identify themselves, however it will not be possible for individuals to be identified in ARA and JFMR’s group submission.

Your statement will only be used in the manner to which you have agreed on the Clann Consent Form. When consent has been given, Clann will use anonymised extracts from your statements in its legal submissions and other materials. Additionally and also if you consent, we will use the information you supply in the Preliminary Questionnaire to produce anonymised statistics and to inform our research and advocacy work. No names or other identifying details will ever be used when this data is published. If you would rather not have your non-identifying information used in this manner, we will respect your wishes. You can note your preference on the Preliminary Questionnaire when you receive it.

If you ask Hogan Lovells to send your statement to the Commission on your behalf they will be happy to do so. If that occurs, the Commission will also receive your identifying information and contact details. The Commission has stated that it will keep your details entirely confidential (subject only to the possibility that any party ’affected’ by your evidence might be given the opportunity to review your evidence and ask questions about it).

Your completed Preliminary Questionnaire(s), Consent Form and all audio files and transcripts will be kept securely at the offices of Hogan Lovells and/or in encrypted format if the materials are in digitised format.

All digital files held by ARA and JFMR are encrypted and stored on secure laptops (with password-protected external back-ups) and on an encrypted Tresorit cloud storage account.  All hard copy materials are stored by ARA and JFMR in a locked office. All email addresses for ARA/JFMR representatives have rigorous security protocols implemented, including ‘two-step verification’ to prevent hacking. Any materials placed on USB drives or CDs/DVDs created are always encrypted.

Clann’s full Ethical Protocols are set out in a detailed document which is available here.

Can I withdraw my consent?

Your participation in this process is voluntary and you are free to withdraw your consent at any time. However, if you have opted for anonymised extracts from your testimony to be included as part of the publicly redacted version(s) of ARA and JFMR’s legal submission to the Commission of Investigation in the Consent Form, it will not be possible to entirely withdraw your redacted testimony from public circulation.  Though we will work to try and achieve its withdrawal from the public domain, we are not in a position to guarantee that this can be successfully achieved.


We hope the information in these FAQs is of help to you.  If you have any questions or concerns or if you are unsure of anything, please contact us.

Please note: nothing in these FAQs should be taken as legal advice.

Click here to download our full Information Form in PDF format

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