Northern Ireland news

Muckamore inquiry chair says investigation will be ‘thorough and impartial'

The public inquiry into alleged abuse at Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Antrim has started. Picture by Mal McCann

The chair of a public inquiry into allegations of abuse at Muckamore Abbey Hospital has pledged that the investigation will be “thorough and impartial”.

The Muckamore Abbey Hospital Inquiry officially began today, with public hearings due to take place in spring of next year.

Tom Kark QC said his team would be holding a number of engagement events across Northern Ireland in the coming weeks to encourage people to come forward.

Muckamore Abbey is a hospital for adults with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs.

Following a lengthy police investigation into claims of patient abuse at the Co Antrim facility, which is operated by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, it was announced earlier this year that a number of people are to be prosecuted for alleged mistreatment of patients.

Last year, Health Minister Robin Swann announced a public inquiry will be held into alleged abuse of patients by staff.

Senior barrister Mr Kark, who played a key role in the 2010 inquiry into avoidable deaths at Stafford Hospital, will oversee the inquiry.

He said: “Today marks the official commencement of the Muckamore Abbey Hospital Inquiry, a significant date for all those patients and families who have been affected by the issues under examination by the inquiry, many of whom have campaigned very hard to ensure this inquiry takes place.

“I want to reassure you that a thorough and impartial investigation will be carried out by the Muckamore Abbey Hospital Inquiry.”

He added: “Over the coming weeks the inquiry team and I will be continuing the work, which has already started, including finalising our premises in central Belfast, and preparing for the public hearings which we hope to start in the spring of next year.

“We will now be holding a number of engagement events to explain the work of the inquiry and to encourage people to come forward and make contact with us. These events have been arranged for locations such as Antrim, Newry, Coleraine, Belfast, Derry/Londonderry with a virtual session also planned, between October 13 to 20.

“It is important that all those who have information, of whatever nature, come forward as early as possible and engage with the inquiry.

“I recognise that this may be an extremely distressing time for some and can assure individuals that all engagement with the inquiry will be strictly confidential and you will be treated with sensitivity.”

Mr Kark concluded: “Our website is now live and can be found at www.mahinquiry.org.uk, here you will find details on how to engage with us which will also be publicised at our engagement events. In the meantime, if you have any questions, a member of the inquiry team can be contacted on 02890 515462.”

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