Police probing more than 70 allegations of 'ill treatment' at Muckamore hospital
POLICE have confirmed they are now investigating more than 70 incidents relating to allegations of "ill treatment" of mentally disabled patients at a Co Antrim hospital.
The development comes three weeks after The Irish News revealed 'archived' CCTV footage from Muckamore Abbey hospital had apparently shown nurses striking patients with severe learning disabilities and mental illnesses.
A major health service probe and PSNI investigation began last August while 13 staff have been suspended to date. It is understood the CCTV recordings date back to March last year.
Families of patients affected have spoken of their concerns about the length of time of the investigation, and possible prosecutions, as well as the "drip feed" of information from the Belfast health trust, which is responsible for Muckamore.
Earlier this week the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said that two files are currently "under consideration" and that they are awaiting further evidence from the police "before a decision can be taken".
Last month it emerged detectives were looking at 42 incidents, with the majority relating to Muckamore's psychiatric intensive care unit which cares for very ill and vulnerable people.
In response to query from the Irish News yesterday, Superintendent Ryan Henderson said:
"Police continue to work with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust regarding allegations of ill-treatment of patients at Muckamore Abbey hospital.
"Detectives from PSNI Public Protection Unit are looking into more than 70 reported incidents, have interviewed three members of staff and to date have submitted two files to the Public Prosecution Service.
"Our investigation into the reported allegations is continuing and anyone with information that could potentially assist us is encouraged to contact police by calling the non-emergency number 101."
A Co Down man whose mentally disabled 21-year-old son was allegedly "punched in the stomach" while being nursed in Muckamore more than a year ago, has hit out at the pace of the investigation.
The distraught father was initially told the reported physical assault was a "one-off" but has been informed over the past fortnight there are a total of 26 'incidents' captured on CCTV cameras relating to his son's care.
"My concern is the longer this goes on the less chance there will be of any prosecutions..we are desperate to get our son discharged but there is no community care package in place for him," he said in an interview with The Irish News yesterday.
"We have him home for three days a week and when we are taking him back to Muckamore he makes a distressed sound and is terrified...we are heartbroken."
Meanwhile, the Society of the Parents and Friends of Muckamore Abbey, held a special meeting for its members last night after a spike in the number of calls from distressed relatives.
Brigene McNeilly, whose brother has been in Muckamore for the past 30 years and is secretary of the society, said hearing about abuse allegations was the call "everyone dreads".