Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Pervert brothers’ victims in plea to warring ministers to end confusion

The Health and Justice ministers are under increasing pressure to resolve their differences over the handling of the Donagh sex abuse case amid accusations from victims that the lack of clarity between their departments is causing confusion.

Michael McGimpsey and David Ford have been criticised for their failure to agree on how the controversial case of two paedophile brothers, who were allowed to return to live at the scene of their crimes, was handled by health officials and the judiciary.

The ministers were today due to be jointly quizzed by the Assembly about the case for the second time this week.

Victims of James and Owen Roe McDermott said that differing versions of events from the Health and Justice departments over what happened is leaving them “confused and bewildered”.

Mr McGimpsey has said that the trial judge was responsible for permitting the brothers to return to live at the scene of the crime. Mr Ford has said however that the judge was relying on evidence from health officials.

Earlier this week Mr McGimpsey announced an internal investigation into the case. However his plan was dealt a blow yesterday when victims said it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.

They also accused Mr McGimpsey of pre-empting the outcome of the Health and Social Care Board's review of the case which he announced on Tuesday, saying he had indicated that “staff should not be held to account”.

They said the only way to discover what actually happened in the case is for an independent barrister to be appointed to examine all the evidence placed before the trial judge.

James and Owen Roe McDermott were two of four brothers involved in what one judge described as a “tidal wave of abuse” in the Co Fermanagh village, stretching back over a 30-year period.

In June the pair were deemed mentally unfit to stand trial and returned to live in Donagh.

Following objections from their victims and concerned residents, the brothers admitted themselves to hospital for treatment.

A statement from victims and Donagh Community Forum said that the two brothers have the right to leave hospital tomorrow and be joined by the third brother in two years’ time.

“This is creating fear amongst victims and parents and will make play facilities unusable as they will be back at the former base for all their crimes,” they said.

The group said they felt there was a “distinct lack of clarity on what happened in the build-up to the case, in court and upon release” and that there seemed to have been a catalogue of errors across departments, with each department “keen to defend their territory and reputation”.

“In these circumstances it has been impossible for victims to make sense of what has occurred or to find closure. Victims and parents in the community are living with the unsatisfactory outcomes now and are faced with great uncertainty for the future.

“Taking into consideration the serious outcomes of the case, the lack of clarity in apportioning responsibility and the poor prospects of departmental officials in taking ownership for vital decisions relating to the case, we require a process that will provide answers,” they added.

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