Northern Ireland

Fermanagh child abuse: Victims 'let down by PSNI', says DUP peer

The Impartial Reporter front page Image copyright The Impartial Reporter

Victims of child sex abuse in County Fermanagh have been let down by a "lacklustre approach" by the PSNI, a DUP peer has said.

Lord Morrow was speaking as it was revealed that 50 alleged victims have come forward during an investigation by the Impartial Reporter newspaper.

Allegations of historic sex abuse continue to make headlines each week.

Twelve women say they were abused by a former primary school principal from Irivinestown, John McElholm.

He is now dead, but many of the alleged abusers are still alive.

To date no arrests have been made.

Image caption Lord Morrow has questioned the length of time police have taken to investigate the claims

One victim told Lord Morrow her story of abuse in 2016 and he went with her to the police.

Since then, he said there had been a lack of contact with the victim and her family, and no indication of any progress being made which he described as "very mediocre".

"I know the police have to be careful here that an allegation is but an allegation, but I think that the police have failed miserably to instil confidence into the victim," Lord Morrow told BBC News NI.

The PSNI has set up a task force to investigate the allegations, but Lord Morrow has questioned why it has taken so long given that they have known about some of the cases "for years on end".

Image caption Numerous alleged victims have told their story to journalist Rodney Edwards

He has questioned whether the PSNI has the resources and has called for the National Crime Agency to be involved.

"I think they should call in the NCA to reassure the victims but also to get to the bottom of this because something has to happen and this is just not good enough what has happened to date.

"Their holding back or their semi-detached approach to all of this was not the way to go.

"They need to reassure victims 'look we're on your side'."

'Absolutely dedicated'

The PSNI's head of Public Protection Branch, Det Ch Supt Paula Hilman, said she has invited Lord Morrow for a briefing on the investigation which will reassure him "that our approach is far from lacklustre and dismissive".

"I look forward to providing him with reassurance that my officers in Public Protection Branch are committed and trained to deal with victims of abuse," she said.

"On a daily basis, they receive and investigate reports of child sexual abuse, both recent and historical.

"We remain absolutely dedicated to gathering all relevant information and evidence in relation to all reports made to us in the Fermanagh area and signposting victims to support services."

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