Muckamore Abbey Hospital abuse inquiry to begin

An inquiry into allegations of abuse at Muckamore Abbey Hospital officially begins on Monday.

The County Antrim facility treats patients with severe learning difficulties and mental health problems.

Following a lengthy police investigation into claims of patient abuse at the facility, which is operated by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, it was announced earlier this year that a number of people are to be prosecuted for alleged mistreatment of patients. The inquiry process was announced by Health Minister Robin Swann in September 2020 and followed two reports - the Serious Adverse Incident Report and the recently published Review into the Leadership and Governance of Muckamore Abbey Hospital by the Belfast Trust.

Senior barrister Tom Kark QC, who played a key role in the 2010 inquiry into avoidable deaths at Stafford Hospital, will oversee the inquiry.

He said: “Today marks the official commencement of the Muckamore Abbey Hospital Inquiry, a significant date for all those patients and families who have been affected by the issues under examination by the Inquiry, many of whom have campaigned very hard to ensure this inquiry takes place.

“Over the coming weeks the Inquiry team and I will be continuing the work, which has already started, including finalising our premises in Central Belfast, and preparing for the public hearings which we hope to start in the Spring of next year.” “We will now be holding a number of engagement events to explain the work of the Inquiry and to encourage people to come forward and make contact with us. These events have been arranged for locations such as Antrim, Newry, Coleraine, Belfast, Derry/Londonderry with a virtual session also planned, between 13th to 20th October and are bookable here.”

He added: “I recognise that this may be an extremely distressing time for some and can assure individuals that all engagement with the Inquiry will be strictly confidential and you will be treated with sensitivity.

"Our website is now live and can be found at - here you will find details on how to engage with us which will also be publicised at our engagement events. In the meantime, if you have any questions, a member of the inquiry team can be contacted on 02890 515462.”

  • Glynn Brown, Action for Muckamore tells UTV what parents expect from the inquiry:

"We welcome the fact the inquiry process is finally getting underway. We expect it to deliver recommendations and for those recommendations to be implemented," Glynn Brown, parent of Aaron Brown and member of campaign group, Action for Muckamore commented.

“The worst thing would be for any subsequent findings to gather dust on a Stormont shelf. Radical reform is required at Muckamore. But there must also be accountability. Those who oversaw a system that allowed such harm to be done should not be let hide behind process or avoid taking responsibility.”

Claire McKeegan, Partner of Phoenix Law said: “This is a significant day in the families' long campaign for justice. Unthinkable abuse was perpetrated by those entrusted with caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. It’s time for the truth of what happened at Muckamore Abbey Hospital to out.

“We will be meeting the Inquiry Chair, Mr Tom Kark QC this week to outline our expectations. Only when this Inquiry gets to the full truth of what occurred behind the closed doors of Muckamore, and the Trusts and Department implement the changes needed, can the families begin to hope that their loved ones are safe going forward”.