Letter reveals prosecutors seek more evidence in three-year Muckmore abuse probe amid families' concerns about slow pace of case
PROSECUTORS examining the Muckamore Abbey Hospital abuse scandal have asked police for "additional evidence" as concerns mount about delays in the case - three years after allegations first surfaced.
Correspondence seen by The Irish News reveals the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) contacted the PSNI for further information and plan to "consult" with them this month.
The letter was sent last month to families of vulnerable patients who allegedly suffered abuse at the hands of staff at the Co Antrim facility between April and September 2017, and which was captured on CCTV.
To date, 15 Muckamore employees have been arrested but no-one has been charged. The Belfast trust has also confirmed that a total of 70 staff are now suspended.
Detectives involved in the investigation - the biggest of its kind in the UK centring on 300,000 hours of CCTV footage - sent a large evidence file to the PPS last Easter and a second one last month.
Dundonald man Glynn Brown, who first raised the alarm in August 2017 after learning his non-verbal son Aaron was allegedly assaulted in Muckamore's psychiatric ICU, said he was "seriously concerned" about the "slow pace" of the probe.
Mr Brown heads up a relatives' pressure group, Action for Muckamore, which lobbied for a public inquiry over the past two years. An inquiry was announced by health minister Robin Swann in September.
"Why wait eight or nine months to decide more evidence is needed. We really don't know what is going on," Mr Brown said.
"Are proper resources being allocated by the PPS due to the magnitude of this case? There is now serious loss of public confidence about caring for the vulnerable.
"There is huge concern among the group about what is going to be done to bring this to a logical conclusion. The whole procedure is worryingly slow."
The PPS letter, sent to families on December 22, refers to the police files as "detailed and complex, requiring very detailed and careful consideration".
It adds that "senior counsel has been instructed".
"We have asked police to provide additional evidence which is required in the case. The (PPS) team is consulting again with police in January and we will contact you after this time..." it adds.
In a statement, the PSNI officer overseeing the case, Detective Chief Inspector Jill Duffie said the probe "has been and continues to be an extremely complex investigation".
In August 2019, the Ms Duffie told The Irish News that 1,500 suspected crimes were identified in just one ward.
The PSNI chief last night said: "We are continuing to work through every single report and every single minute of over 300,000 hours of CCTV footage to bring anyone guilty of any criminal offences before the courts. This will take some time but we need to take that time to ensure we carry out a thorough investigation.
"I am very conscious of the trauma and impact upon the families whose loved ones are at the centre of this investigation. From the outset we have been committed to working closely with them, with the aim of keeping them as informed as much as we possibly can and we will continue to do so."