The Department of Justice has produced figures which show that the average (median) time taken for processing cases where the main aspect was a sexual offence is 667 days. This is in comparison to an average of 167 days in all other case or as low as 138 days for cases where the offences relate to public order offences.
The time is calculated from the point when the case was either reported to or detected by the PSNI until the date when the case was finally disposed of at court.
The revelations of historic abuse in Fermanagh following investigations by the Impartial Reporter’s deputy editor, Rodney Edwards, continue and the Orange Order has now been brought to the fore.
The number of victims is growing as is the number of identified abusers. The PSNI have been investigating the complaints and specialist officers from the Public Protection Unit have been assigned to conduct these enquiries.
Following his appointment to the Northern Ireland Office, Julian Smith has had meetings with different victims campaign groups over the ongoing stalemate in Northern Ireland. These meetings seem to have been more upbeat than previous meetings with his predecessor Karen Bradley and the victims groups have expressed confidence in the new Secretary of State.
Victims and survivors had lost confidence in Ms Bradley and had gone as far as to call for her resignation. They remain unhappy that the recommendations of the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry have not progressed into any tangible form over 2 ½ years since they were presented to the Executive.
In Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, an investigation by Impartial Reporter journalist Rodney Edwards has resulted in over 60 people disclosing that they were abused. They have alleged abuse against a number of people, with 12 women alleging abuse against a former primary school principal. The story has taken a greater prominence with the intervention of Lord Morrow, a DUP peer. Lord Morrow had met with one of the complainants in 2016 and went to the police with her as a support.
The HIAI made recommendations in their final report presented to the NI Executive in January 2017. Shortly after the Executive collapsed over a renewable heat scheme and has not returned. Divisions between the main parties seem as wide now as they were then and there is little prospect of an imminent return.
A proposed draft of the necessary legislation to implement the HIAI recommendations was completed towards the end of 2018 and a consultation process completed this year. There were a number of core issues addressed by the former residents both individually and through their support groups with the main contention being an increase in the basic award or “common experience” payment levels.
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.
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”.