Sex Offenders Being Housed With Children

Muckamore Abbey – the Antrim hospital which treats people with learning difficulties – is at the centre of fresh controversy following revelations that convicted sex offenders are being housed in the vicinity of children and young people.

Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner Patricia Lewsley is to meet with the Department of Health to seek assurances that children are fully protected.

The unit has been decribed by a spokeswoman from the Department of Health as “a new purpose built in-patient unit that provides updated modern accommodation with security, for people who have come through the criminal justice system, who also have a learning disability”.

The spokeswoman said that the unit – which is already open and operational – will care for such patients who would be a risk to themselves and others if they were not under appropriate supervision and care.

But she stressed: “The new facility is a unit that is fully secure and is entirely separate from other facilities at Muckamore.
“Patients within this unit receive one-to-one supervision and do not come into contact with other patients at the hospital.”

However Ms Lewsley, whilst acknowledging that such a unit is needed, has said she intends to meet with the Department of Health and “seek to ensure that there are strict guidelines and that they are adhered to”.

Ms Lewsley said: “While I am aware and welcome the plans to provide alternative accommodation for all the children in Muckamore, there are immediate needs of the children to be addressed.”