Historical abuse developments in Northern Ireland

This report starts first with a comment on the sad death of Sir Anthony Hart, the Chairman of the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry.  He died suddenly on Tuesday.  Sir Anthony was a well respected member of the Bar and retained that respect as a county court Judge, Recorder of Derry and Belfast and, subsequently, a High Court Judge.  Our sympathies go to his wife, family friends and colleagues.

In the same week, the Northern Ireland Select Committee heard evidence from Jon McCourt (Survivors North West), Gerry McCann (Rosetta Trust), Professor Patricia Lundy (Ulster University and Patrick Corrigan (Amnesty).  The Committee recommended that the Redress Scheme (recommended by the HIAI) be progressed through Parliament as quickly as possible.  This recommendation was originally contained in the recommendations of the HIAI, lead by Sir Anthony, published in January 2017.  The collapse of the NI Assembly shortly after that means there has been little or no progress since then.

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PSNI to review historic abuse allegations

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”.

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Progress made in HIAI recommendations

It has been announced that discussions between the political parties in Northern Ireland and the Head of Civil Service, David Sterling, have made some progress on the approach to the recommendations made by Sir Anthony Hart following the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI).

The HIAI made a number of recommendations in 2017 but the political impasse in NI has meant that nothing has happened in regard to the implementation of those recommendations.  Earlier this year a consultation process on draft legislation generated a significant number of responses.

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New independent chair to inter-departmental working group for mother and baby homes/Magdalene laundries and historical clerical abuse

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland have announced that Mr Peter McBride has been appointed as the Independent Chair of an inter-departmental working group to look at how the Executive can address issues surrounding mother and baby homes/Magdalene laundries and historical clerical child abuse.

It is expected the group will be in place for around a year and they will make recommendations to ministers at the end of that time.

This group has been announced by the Department of Health but is co-sponsored by The Executive Office.

Mr McBride has many years experience in the voluntary and community sector and is involved with a number of charities (BBC Children in Need and NI Council for Voluntary Action).


Written by Ciara McReynolds at BLM

Recommendations for changes to sex trials in NI announced

Sir John Gillen has presented his report on the handling of sexual assault and rape trials in Northern Ireland. This report was commissioned after a high profile rape trial saw two men acquitted of rape and two others acquitted of other offences connected to the same incident. The Review group heard from more than 200 organisations and individuals and considered the way these offences were handled across the globe.

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Northern Ireland – the challenge of no Assembly

On the 2 April 2018 the High Court in Belfast heard a judicial review on behalf of a survivor in his seventies, identified as JR 80, who is seeking to compel the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley to act on and implement the recommendations of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA).

In 2017 the HIA published a report recommending redress ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 for those who were resident in a care facility and who suffered neglect and abuse, or experienced a harsh regime or witnessed other residents being abused between 1922 and 1995. The proposed redress also provided for a specific award of £20,000 if the person was transported to Australia or any other country as part of the scheme to populate those territories.

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