Police probing allegations of physical and mental abuse of patients at Muckamore Abbey have identified over 1,500 crimes in one ward of the scandal-hit hospital.
The incidents, which were recorded on CCTV, happened in the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) over the course of six months.
Twenty staff have been suspended at the hospital, which provides treatment for people with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs.
In an interview with the Irish News, the detective leading the investigation described it as the “largest adult safeguarding case” of its kind undertaken by the PSNI.
Det Ch Insp Jill Duffie said her officers have almost finished viewing of hundreds of thousands of hours of CCTV footage relating to the ward, adding that it was “inevitable” that more staff may need to be suspended by the Belfast Trust.
Police are investigating over 400 incidents in the PICU, with about 1,500 crimes detected which DCI Duffie said mainly relate to “physical abuse of the patients, wilful neglect of patients and inappropriate use of seclusion”.
There has been no sexual abuse captured on the footage, she added.
The senior officer told BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme that detectives were examining a series of “very traumatic events” seen in the CCTV footage, which showed a “repeated pattern of abuse” of patients over a six month period.
She added: “These patients would not normally have been able to tell anyone what was happening to them. And that is why it is so crucial in this case that we have the CCTV evidence.”
DCI Duffie said police have been in “regular contact” with the families affected as the investigation continues,