Northern Ireland

Belfast nursing home 'sex assault' on resident investigated

The alleged attack took place at Orchard House Nursing Home in Cherryvalley Park
Image caption The alleged attack took place at Orchard House Nursing Home in Cherryvalley Park

Police are investigating an alleged sexual assault on an elderly woman in a nursing home in east Belfast.

The alleged attack took place at Orchard House Nursing Home in Cherryvalley Park on May 20.

Councillor Jim Rodgers has criticised the police for not making a public statement about the alleged incident ahead of media inquiries.

The PSNI said a thorough investigation was being carried out to determine the circumstances of the alleged assault.

It is understood the elderly woman who made the complaint lives in the private nursing home, which has 36 residents and is situated just off the Knock dual carriageway.

Mr Rodgers said: "This is a very well run home. They've got a great track record... I've never heard a complaint. I was shocked."

He said the home operated an "open door" policy for visitors. He pointed out there had been a number of burglaries in the Cherryvalley area.

'Transparent'

Mr Rodgers said the police needed to make its position "very clear".

"Why have police not alerted people in the area, residents, asking for public help? They have been strangely quiet on this one.

"I don't think they've been open and transparent whatsoever.

"The home is worried about a claim that there was an alleged incident. They have carried out a full investigation and are still trying to get to the bottom of this."

A police spokesman said: "A thorough investigation is currently being carried out to determine the circumstances of this incident, but we are at the very early stages of what is likely to be a protracted investigation."

A police source said the responsibility to be transparent was always balanced with the responsibility to maintain the integrity of investigations.

Orchard House Nursing Home was formed by converting two large Victorian semi-detached houses in 1990.

In a letter to relatives on 24 May, the home said they "strongly suspected" an intruder had got into the home.

It said the police had been called, adding: "They are viewing this event as an assault, although to the best of our knowledge no patients were harmed and the relatives of those concerned have been fully informed and are happy with the action taken."

Security

It said that security was being stepped up at the home and it was reviewing its "open door" policy.

The letter added: "I hope you feel reassured that we are doing all we can to address this situation."

The PSNI and health and social care trusts have primary responsibility for the investigation of abuse and the protection of vulnerable adults.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) has been notified by the home of the alleged incident and the investigation is being led by the PSNI.

A spokesman for the RQIA said: "RQIA is not conducting a separate investigation, however, as the regulator of health and social care services in Northern Ireland, we will ensure that all appropriate actions are being taken to assure the safety and wellbeing of all patients at this service."