Northern Ireland news

Court hears of 131 charges against Muckamore Abbey Hospital accused

Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim is at the centre of a major police investigation. Picture by Mal McCann

Court proceedings have commenced against eight people charged in relation to allegations of abuse at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

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 in April that a number of people were to be prosecuted for alleged mistreatment of patients.

Seven cases were heard in the first instance today before District Judge Broderick, with a legal representative not available for the eighth defendant.

The accused are Darren James O’Kane (33) of Creeve Court in Randalstown; James Patrick David Houston (36) of Elliotts Place in Strangford; Stephen Nixon, age unknown, of Creevy Avenue, Belfast; Darren O’Loan (35) from Aghaboy Gardens in Antrim town; Naoife Donnelly (38) from Red Row, Randalstown; Aaron McFetridge (36) of Rosses Stables, Ballymena; and Danielle Gallagher (30) of Dermont Crescent in Newtownabbey.

Due to an absence of legal representation earlier today, the next hearing for another of the accused, Dorothy Irwin (58) and from Glenburn Avenue in Larne, was not immediately decided.

Charges against the accused include unlawful imprisonment and neglect.

Prosecution lawyer David McNeill told the court there were 131 charges against the accused.

At a hearing in Antrim Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, he also told the court that evidence is largely made up of CCTV footage.

The defence lawyer for one of the accused, Michael Smyth, said there were almost “7,000 pages of evidence” in the case.

The prosecution was also asked if multiple copies of a USB stick containing the bulk of the evidence could be made available for defence counsel.

The next hearing will take place on January 18 2022.

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