Muckamore Abbey abuse scandal: Family welcome PPS decision to prosecute seven staff members

The family of a Muckamore Abbey patient has welcomed a decision by the PPS to prosecute seven staff members over alleged abuse.

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 7:07 am
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th July 2018 General view of Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Antrim. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The Public Prosecution Service confirmed yesterday that it will take court proceedings against seven staff members over the alleged ill-treatment of patients at the specialist Co Antrim hospital for adults with serious mental health and learning difficulties.

The News Letter understands the seven suspects were reported on the file received by the PPS from police in April last year, while a further eight suspects were reported on a second investigation file received in December 2020 which remains under consideration.

The PSNI investigation into the allegations involved the UK-wide National Crime Agency and has been described as one of the largest of its kind in UK history.

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Glynn Brown, whose son Aaron was a patient at the hospital when details of the abuse scandal first began to emerge in 2017, said: “We welcome this latest development. It’s been a long four years to get to this point. We understand there’s another file of eight alleged suspects under consideration, and we understand there are many more still to be arrested.”

He added: “We look forward to the time when we know the full number of alleged perpetrators and the full extent of the crimes that each individual one is alleged to have committed. We look forward to this evidence being tested in court and our loved ones getting justice at last.”

Mr Brown has been at the forefront of a campaign by families for a public inquiry into the allegations and their handling by health authorities.

In September last year, Health Minister Robin Swann announced that he would order a statutory public inquiry.

To date, no inquiry chairman or panel has been appointed.

Mr Brown urged authorities to press ahead with the inquiry.

Meanwhile, PPS assistant director Martin Hardy said: “The PPS has taken a decision to prosecute seven individuals in relation to alleged ill-treatment of patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

“This decision follows a thorough consideration of all the evidence in an investigation file received from police in April 2020.”

He added: “We acknowledge how difficult this process has been for the patients and their families, and we recognise the great dignity that they have shown. We will continue to engage with them and ensure they are kept informed as the process continues.”

The head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Public Protection Branch, Detective Chief Superintendent Anthony McNally, said: “The decision by the Public Prosecution Service to prosecute seven people for a range of offences in connection with the alleged ill-treatment of patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital today is significant progress in this police investigation.

“This has been a very detailed and complex investigation and we will continue to work closely with the PPS, who have written to the families involved to make them aware of the decision to prosecute seven people for a range of offences including ill-treatment and wilful neglect contrary to the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986.”

He added: “Our specially trained officers will continue to provide support to 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. The protection of our most vulnerable is a priority for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”