Northern Ireland

Concern at Lissue and Forster Green abuse report 'secrecy'

Irish News
Image caption The Irish News broke the story about the abuse inquiry on Wednesday

Stormont health committee chair Michelle Gildernew has raised concerns about the "secrecy" around a report into abuse at two children's hospitals.

The 2009 review, which was never published, detailed abuse at Lissue hospital in Lisburn and Forster Green in Belfast in the 1980s and 90s.

Three allegations were made against members of staff over claims that girls aged between eight and 13 were abused.

The Irish News broke the story after obtaining a copy of the report.

Humiliation

It was compiled by independent health consultant Bob Stinson and completed in January 2009.

It said that two of the allegations of abuse were referred to police but a third was not because it was made some years after the alleged incident took place and, in the view of the report's author, was not corroborated.

The report also detailed concerns about children being asked to undress in front of staff.

In 14 cases, children were alleged to have sexually abused other children while staff also allegedly used humiliation to discipline children.

The 11 such cases of humiliation in the report were described by Mr Stinson as "one of the most disturbing elements of the review."

The review was instigated by the Belfast Trust and the Eastern Health Board after one former patient made a complaint to police.

After a meeting of the health committee on Wednesday afternoon, Michelle Gildernew said the report had "raised more questions than answers".

'Disturbing'

Image caption Michelle Gildernew has said she will be seeking a meeting with health officials

"I think we will certainly want to speak to senior officials within the department (of health) to see why there was such secrecy about this report," Ms Gildernew said.

"I think in the current climate of transparency and accountability, the secrecy around this is very disturbing.

"It will be interesting to see just at what level of the department decisions were taken to keep this so quiet.

"If it was done in the best interests of children, that's one thing. If it was done in the interests of staff, that's another thing entirely."

The health minister Edwin Poots has called the allegations "horrific and appalling".

"People who have vulnerabilities are people who you want to give as much protection to as possible and if what has been alleged transpires to be true, that has obviously not been the case," he added.

He insisted that there was no cover-up because health officials had followed the correct procedures by liaising with the police about the allegations.

The PSNI has said it carried out a number of investigations into alleged abuse over a number of years and "where appropriate" files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions or in subsequent years to the Public Prosecution Service.

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