Northern Ireland news

Police examining 240,000 hours of CCTV footage as part of Muckamore abuse investigation

Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim is at the centre of the biggest criminal safeguarding investigation in Northern Ireland. Picture by Mal McCann

POLICE are examining 240,000 hours of CCTV footage as part of an investigation into the alleged abuse of patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital, the High Court has heard.

A team of eight officers has currently been assigned to go through the material, with requests made to double the number.

Details emerged as another two nurses who worked at the hospital in Co Antrim commenced legal attempts to have their suspensions lifted.

Last week seven of their colleagues successfully appealed the step taken against them by their regulatory body.

The court held there was insufficient evidence for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to impose interim suspension orders on the seven individuals.

They can now practice in the UK, but remain temporarily suspended by the Belfast health trust pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation into allegations that vulnerable patients were subjected to physical and mental abuse.

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In court today a judge was told the NMC cannot consent to applications by the other two nurses at this stage.

A lawyer for the regulatory body said it was liaising with the trust and the PSNI over the release of further information.

Police, however, are not prepared to disclose footage at this stage, the court heard.

Counsel representing the PSNI responded by claiming the release of footage they have received could prejudice its investigation.

He said: "There are approximately 240,000 hours of CCTV footage (and) approximately 90 hours from four individual wards.

"The police are extremely anxious to go through this material as quickly as possible."

The barrister revealed that eight officers have been allocated to viewing the footage.

A resource request has also been made for the number of staff involved to be doubled to 16.

"The reason why police feel it cannot be disclosed at this stage is the CCTV evidence represents the centrepiece of this investigation," counsel continued.

"Patients don't have capacity to provide statements, there aren't witnesses to the events, and the investigation really does focus on the CCTV footage."

Concerns were raised about material being disclosed and then potentially put to suspects as part of the NMC's regulatory duties.

Following submissions Mr Justice Huddlestone agreed to a one-week adjournment.

Muckamore Abbey Hospital is the regional inpatient facility for adults with severe learning disabilities and is at the centre of the biggest criminal safeguarding investigation in Northern Ireland.

The suspensions were imposed during private hearings in Belfast last August, a month after the scale of abuse allegations was revealed in The Irish News.

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