As we develop a greater understanding of the impact of abuse on victims and the wide range of reactions to the abuse, and as police and prosecutors receive greater training, it is likely that old cases, previously dismissed or overlooked, will be re-examined. Cross referencing across police areas may well lead to reactivation of older allegations being given the credibility not appreciated before.
This has occurred in County Fermanagh where the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has created a team of officers to look into allegations of abuse going back over decades. A number of the allegations name a former bus driver as the abuser; some of the allegations are against un-named individuals who were described as well known in the area including “prominent businessmen”.
One victim alleges abuse by up to 15 different individuals and says that her child minder facilitated the abuse and was effectively providing access to her for the abusers. Another victim named her own brother and believes there were many other victims of the same man.
The former bus driver was reported to have been a prolific abuser who drugged victims prior to sexually abusing them and may have used his position of trust as a school bus driver to gain the trust of victims.
Despite files of information being provided to the police no-one has yet been arrested for any of the alleged offences. The former bus driver was murdered and his body was found in a bog outside the village of Belcoo. The police accepted that reports made before his death did not lead to him being questioned. The new team of specialist detectives will re-examine at least 19 cases but clearly the publicity in the area may lead to further complaints being made. Detective Chief Supt Paula Hilman has confirmed that all reports of abuse will be reviewed. It appears earlier complaints had been deemed insufficient for prosecution but the new review will be able to cross reference all the old cases with new complaints.
Despite this new investigation and requests by the police for all victims or anyone who can help to come forward some feel they will never get closure as perpetrators are now dead and the damage has been done after years of not being believed.
The story was brought to prominence by journalist Rodney Edwards, deputy editor of the Enniskillen based paper, The Impartial Reporter, who has had the opportunity of meeting with several victims and has been able to bring their evidence to the fore.
Written by Fintan Canavan at BLM