Northern Ireland news

Muckamore families welcome police searches but concern about length of investigation

A PSNI team has carried out eight searches in connection with the Muckamore hospital abuse investigation
Seanín Graham

THE father of the Muckamore patient whose case sparked the massive abuse probe has said he fears there could be no prosecutions.

A PSNI team yesterday searched eight homes linked to hospital staff and seized mobile phones from properties in Co Antrim and Co Down.

A detective confirmed her team is examining 158 alleged incidents of "ill treatment" and is committed to a "full and thorough" investigation.

Read More: Belfast health trust boss admits failures in reporting Muckamore abuse to department

But the Dundonald parent raised concerns about a lack of arrests given the length of time since allegations first came to light.

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The father-of-four compared it to the Winterbourne View home scandal in Bristol, where six care workers were jailed within a year of an undercover Panorama reporter secretly filming abuse of vulnerable adults in 2011.

"I'm aware this is a complex investigation and far bigger than anyone understood at the time but it's now 17 months since I first got the call about my son being abused by a staff member," said the parent.

Read More: Belfast health trust boss admits failures in reporting Muckamore abuse to department

"I welcome yesterday's house searches by police but I think more resources should be deployed to the case to speed up things. My big worry is the longer it goes on the harder it will be to get justice."

Read More: Timeline of Muckamore abuse investigation

In a statement, Detective Chief Inspector Jill Duffie said her team is "very sensitive" to the "trauma and impact" upon those families learning about horrific abuse of their loved ones.

"The safeguarding and protection of our most vulnerable is a priority for the Police Service of Northern Ireland," she said.

She added: "We will continue to work through every report made to us to establish if criminal offences have been committed."

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Solicitor Claire McKeegan of Phoenix Law in Belfast, who is pursuing a class action on behalf of six families affected by the scandal, also spoke of the impact of the "protracted investigation".

"The development yesterday is welcomed by families. However, it is deeply upsetting and frustrating for our clients that the police investigation has been ongoing since 2017 and has uncovered CCTV footage of abuses having been perpetrated and as yet no-one has been arrested," she said.

"It is important that these matters are dealt with expeditiously to ensure the families the best chances of justice before the courts... the delays make it more difficult to obtain best evidence and obtain convictions."

Read More: Muckamore scandal prompts concerns over procedure around registration of support workers

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