Kincora witness withdraws from HIA probe

Kincora child abuse survivor Richard Kerr. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress  
Kincora child abuse survivor Richard Kerr. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress  

A FORMER resident of Kincora Boys' Home has withdrawn from the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry amid claims of "unfavourable" treatment of abuse victims.

Richard Kerr was placed into the east Belfast home in 1975 at the age of 14.

He said as well as being abused in the home along with other boys he was taken outside to hotels given alcohol and sent to rooms with older men as part of a paedophile ring allegedly involving establishment figures.

In 1981 Kincora staff Joe Mains, Raymond Semple and housemaster William McGrath were jailed for abusing 11 boys, among them Mr Kerr.

Mr Kerr was invited to be a 'Core Participant' at the HIA inquiry and reluctantly agreed despite being concerned at he inquiry's lack of powers to compel witnesses.

The inquiry at Banbridge, headed up by Sir Anthony Hart, is investigating allegations of institutional sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children in Northern Ireland state and church run residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.

However, in a statement released through his lawyers, KRW Law, Mr Kerr says he feels forced to withdraw as a witness.

Mr Kerr's legal representative Claire McKeegan said her client was only provided with documents by the inquiry team at the end of last week, and has not received any disclosure from state agencies or security services.

"The state bodies, agencies that are core participants to the inquiry appear to have been provided with bundles of documents of up to 16,000 pages. In contrast, Mr Kerr was provided with around 740 pages", said Ms McKeegan.

"It is not appropriate that the British security forces and security services represented as core participants have been provided with a bundle of documents that is significantly greater than the volume of documents provided to Mr Kerr as the only core participant survivor of abuse.

"He has not been provided with any documents obtained from or submitted by the British security forces and security services."

The lawyer continued: "It is also apparent that the inquiry is treating witnesses who are victims of abuse unfavourably compared to witnesses from State bodies and agencies."

However a spokesperson for the HIA said Mr Kerr had been provided with "documents presently available to the inquiry".

"Mr Kerr was invited to become a core participant in the inquiry and was provided with public funding for his legal representatives to attend the public hearings on his behalf," a spokesman said.

"Inquiry made arrangements for him to fly from the United States to Northern Ireland at public expense this week so that he could consult with his legal representatives, provide a witness statement to the inquiry, consult with Inquiry counsel and give evidence next Monday.

"His legal representatives have accepted to the Inquiry that what the agencies of the state knew about the abuse perpetrated at Kincora and the individuals perpetrating that abuse, or when they knew about it, are matters that are not within Mr Kerr’s knowledge.

"Mr Kerr and his legal representatives have therefore been provided with all the documents presently available to the inquiry that the inquiry considers directly bear upon him, or on matters that the inquiry considers Mr Kerr is in a position to assist the inquiry with based on what he is in a position to speak about".