Anger as Gerry Adams avoids prosecution over silence on brother's abuse
Unionists have reacted with fury after the Public Prosecution Service ruled it was not in the public interest to prosecute Gerry Adams for withholding information about his paedophile brother.
It was also decided that there was not enough evidence to bring a case against the Sinn Fein leader, the PPS said yesterday.
Mr Adams did not tell police for nine years that Liam Adams had confessed to sexually abusing his daughter Aine Dahlstrom.
Liam Adams was convicted in 2013 of raping and abusing his daughter in the 1970s.
The PPS concluded that the level of abuse the former West Belfast MP had knowledge of was unclear and therefore the evidential test was not met to prosecute him for withholding information.
However, a probe by Attorney General John Larkin found that the PPS had been "premature" in making that decision.
Mr Larkin said: "There were indications from the evidence on file that Gerry Adams may have been aware of the nature of the abuse. In order to properly determine this issue it would have been necessary to obtain clarification from Aine Dahlstrom as to what she had told him."
When the PPS contacted Mrs Dahlstrom as part of an internal review into the case, in the wake of Mr Larkin's findings, she told it she did not want to pursue the matter any further and did not want Gerry Adams to be prosecuted.
Unionist politicians said the case has undermined public confidence in the PPS.
The republican leader took to the witness box in 2013 to testify against his brother who was on trial for sexually abusing his daughter.
Under cross-examination he admitted that he did not notify police for almost a decade after his brother confessed to child abuse.
That trial collapsed, although Liam Adams was later found guilty after a second trial of raping and abusing Aine over a six-year period in the 1970s.
Following a DUP complaint that the PPS failed to prosecute Gerry Adams, the Attorney General launched a probe into the decision and the PPS carried out an internal review.
Afterwards, the PPS once again concluded that the public interest was better served to use Gerry Adams as a witness in the case.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Pamela Atchison added that it would have been unfair to prosecute the Louth TD after he gave evidence.
In his report the Attorney General agreed and said: "In many situations, for the prosecutors to insist that a potential witness must be interviewed under caution in relation to an offence of withholding information might well have the effect of reducing the willingness of the potential witness to co-operate with the police and prosecution.
"It is difficult to see how such a course would serve the public interest."
Gerry Adams said he welcomed the conclusion of the PPS that he should not be prosecuted as he had committed no offence.
"I have consistently maintained that my sole interest was in helping and supporting Aine and that in these endeavours I did nothing wrong," he said
"This has been a very difficult time for Aine, her family and the wider Adams family." However, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said he was not convinced there was no public interest in prosecuting Gerry Adams.
"Irrespective of the law and its interpretation by the Attorney General, the public has an expectation that people in positions of power and influence should be held to the highest standards, be they clerics, police officers or politicians," he said.
Mr Nesbitt added that "judicial processes will be eroded as a result of this outcome".
Chairman of the Assembly's justice committee Alastair Ross said the Attorney General's report "raises serious questions for the Public Prosecution Service".
"This is another deeply damaging report for the Public Prosecution Service and comes only a few weeks after the PPS was strongly criticised for its handling of the Mairia Cahill case," the DUP man said.
TUV leader Jim Allister said the case threw up two significant failings by the PPS.
"Namely, the failure to clarify with his niece the detail she had supplied to Gerry Adams about Liam Adams' offences against her, and the failure to then follow that up by interviewing Gerry Adams under caution," said Mr Allister.
He added: "These were elementary failures for which the PPS is culpable, yet there is no satisfactory explanation as to why the PPS was so lax."
‘This is above politics’... what Gerry told the trial
An edited transcript of the evidence given by Gerry Adams in the first sexual abuse trial of his brother Liam in April 2013. Abbreviations used in this extract - EM: Defence barrister Eilis McDermott QC, GA: Gerry Adams
EM: You say that your brother made an admission to you when you were walking around Dundalk in the rain in the year 2000.
EM: If that is true, then you could be in no doubt whatsoever in 2000 and onwards that your brother had sexually assaulted your niece.
GA: That’s true.
EM: Did you know that he was working in youth clubs?
GA: I did, yes.
EM: In the year 2007 you became aware that the police wanted to speak to you about this case.
EM: Was this conveyed to you by your then solicitor?
EM: In your interview (with police) you made no reference to this admission which you say was made to you by your brother in 2000.
GA: That’s correct.
EM: In October 2009 did you ask your solicitor to get in touch with the police again?
GA: I did.
EM: You wanted to make a statement.
EM: Two years and four months have passed since June 2007 when you made your first statement and nine years have passed since you say this admission was made to you by your brother... so the police come to your solicitor’s office, not at their request but at the request of your solicitor and in that statement you tell the police that an admission, or admissions, are made to you... that is the first occasion on which you tell police that your brother has made an admission to you. This is a month before you were interviewed for the TV programme. You knew this TV programme was going to be made when you asked your solicitor to contact the police. That is why you asked your solicitor to contact the police.
GA: No. He (his solicitor) advised me that there would be plenty of time to make a supplementary statement if required.
EM: You had this information about an alleged confession in your possession for nine years at this stage and you now say that your solicitor knew about this from June 20, 2007. Not only were you withholding information from police over a nine-year period, but your solicitor was withholding information for two years and four months. Did you tell police that your solicitor knew?
GA: My solicitor is there to advise me.
EM: Did your solicitor discuss with you whether he and you might be guilty of withholding information?
GA: No, but he did tell me I could make a statement as the case proceeded.
EM: But you waited until the time when you were being interviewed by a TV journalist... you needed to make the statement at that stage because you wanted to do your best to avoid allegations that you had withheld information about child sexual abuse. During those nine years you had that information and the police did not have it because you withheld it. You went to the police on this occasion because you knew that the question of you withholding information was going to become a matter of public debate.
GA: I went to the police after Aine went to the police.
EM: The reason you made this statement to police on October 21, 2009 was to save your political skin.
GA: If I had been intent on saving my political skin I would not have got involved in this process at the beginning. I was fulfilling my responsibility as an uncle with a niece I am very fond of. I would not have tried to do my best to resolve this. This is above politics. Saving my political skin is no consideration in these matters.