Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Inquiry into institutional child abuse claims set to investigate 35 locations

Thirty-five locations, including a former workhouse, will be investigated by a state inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland.

Details of institutions were revealed at a public appeal yesterday calling on victims of childhood institutional abuse to come forward.

Just over 170 people have contacted the inquiry or its partner Acknowledgement Forum to tell their stories of abuse. They range from people aged in their 30s up to their 80s, and 80% of them intend to give their testimony.

The inquiry was set up by the Northern Ireland Executive to investigate institutions run by the state and church or owned by the private sector or voluntary bodies in the 73 years between 1922 and 1995.

Sir Anthony Hart, the inquiry’s chairman, said the inquiry would not yet identify institutions they intend to investigate.

While around 170 possible locations have been identified, Sir Anthony said they expect to investigate a smaller number of institutions as organisations often operated from several sites.

The number of children who attended these institutions is not known, but Sir Anthony said their information suggests it could amount to thousands of children.

Of the 35 institutions the inquiry will investigate, 15 were run by local authorities. Most were children’s homes run by the then county council welfare committees.

One is a former workhouse which is believed to have closed shortly after World War Two.

Four of the institutions were government-run borstals and training schools, while another three were institutions run by voluntary organisations associated with a Protestant denomination or a voluntary secular organisation. Thirteen of the locations were voluntary institutions provided and run by Catholic religious Orders.

The inquiry will start its public hearings at the end of the year at Banbridge Court House.

Its staff are trawling through documents, including records of complaints, provided by institutions identified by people who have approached the inquiry.

But with a two-and-a-half year window to complete its work, Sir Anthony has appealed to victims to come forward.

Next week, posters and flyers will be left at bus stops and in GP surgeries across Northern Ireland.

The inquiry has also contacted media organisations in Australia to publicise the appeal, as well as heads of the four main Christian denominations here.

Speaking at the campaign’s launch in Belfast yesterday, Sir Anthony said: “Both parts of the inquiry are here to listen to the experiences of people who may have been abused as children in institutions. Of course, it includes sexual and physical abuse. That could (also) include emotional abuse, neglect and ill-treatment.”

He added: “If we receive allegations from someone who was in a specific institution as a child; or if our own researchers reveal evidence that suggests that children might have been abused in an institution, then we will investigate that institution.”

Profile

Sir Anthony Hart is a retired High Court judge. In 1997, he was appointed Recorder of Belfast. Five years later he was appointed presiding judge of the County Courts. In January 2005 he was appointed a high court judge. Until his retirement in January last year, Sir Anthony was responsible to the Lord Chief Justice for pre-trial hearings and case listings of High Court criminal cases.

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