Sex Abuse Probe At Muckamore Abbey
Police have launched a major investigation into allegations of widespread sexual abuse among patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital over two decades, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.
The North and West Belfast Trust and the Eastern Health and Social Services Board have also confirmed to this paper that they are engaged in an in-depth review of alleged sexual abuse at the hospital of and by former patients between 1960 and 1982.
The probe began when health chiefs received a complaint from a former patient who claimed he had suffered sexual abuse by an older male patient at the hospital when he was a teenager in the 1970s.
Reviews were then carried out by the Eastern Board and the North and West Belfast Trust to find out if there were reports of similar activity involving other patients at the County Antrim hospital, which provides a service for patients with learning disabilities.
The PSNI was then informed and has confirmed to this paper that its CARE unit is investigating “allegations of inappropriate behaviour”.
It is understood multiple cases have been referred to them involving adults and minors.
The Belfast Telegraph has learned that a former patient of Muckamore launched a legal claim in 1992 against the Eastern Board, claiming he had suffered physical, sexual and psychological abuse when he was an inpatient at Muckamore more than 30 years ago.
When the patient’s medical notes were examined there were references to reported incidents of a sexual nature between him and an older male patient.
Disturbingly, in the notes, the patient had also referred to similar incidents involving other patients, both adults and minors.
The Eastern Board and the Trust then launched a review in 2005 to determine if there was information about similar activity involving other patients in the 1970s and 1980s.
The results of this review were presented to the PSNI.
Last year, the Board and the Trust launched a second fact-finding review of patient files.
It is understood this review discovered up to eight files which included reports of sexualised behaviour between adults and minors and up to 33 files with cases of non-consenting sexualised behaviour between adults.
It is believed that an assessment is now being carried out of the capacity of individuals to be interviewed by police.
A police spokeswoman said: “The PSNI is conducting an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour between patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital more than 20 years ago.
“The investigation, by officers from the CARE unit, started after the North and West Belfast Trust and Eastern Health and Social Services Board contacted police.
“The allegations refer to a period at the hospital between the 1960s and 1980s. Police inquiries into this difficult and sensitive area will be progressed as fully and quickly as possible.”
The North and West Belfast Trust last night released a statement to the Belfast Telegraph.
It stated: “The North and West Belfast Trust and the Eastern Health and Social Services Board confirmed today that they are engaged in an in-depth review of alleged sexual abuse of and by some former patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital in the period 1960 to 1982.
“The trust and board promptly notified the PSNI of the review which concerns inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature between some patients.
“As a police investigation is currently under way, the trust and board cannot comment further on this matter.”
The statement added: “However, the board and trust today stressed that while the review was considering circumstances of many years ago, the quality of care now provided to patients in recent years is of a high standard and meets protocols.
“The board and the trust recently carried out a separate review of current practice and are satisfied that all current care arrangements, including protocols in relation to the protection of children and vulnerable adults at the hospital meet appropriate professional standards.
“They are fully committed to maintaining a suitably high standard of care and support for patients and their families.
“The board and the trust cannot comment further in view of the on-going review process and the need to pursue this with due regard to the confidentiality.
“It is important to stress that these events happened many years ago, though we are conscious of the need to be sensitive, to and supportive of, patients and their families at this time.
“The department (of Health) is fully aware of this issue, and has taken steps to ensure that the procedures in place in all comparable facilities in other boards and trusts are also in full compliance.”