Belfast Telegraph

Handling of abuse cases reviewed

A review of how sex offenders are handled has been announced in Northern Ireland.

Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice Dr Michael Maguire will carry out the investigation after controversy over the management of paedophile brothers James and Owen-Roe McDermott, from Donagh, Co Fermanagh.

The pair abused children in Donagh over a 30-year period, but were judged mentally unfit to stand trial. They then returned to live in the village.

Justice Minister David Ford has announced the probe.

"It is clear to me that there is a distinct lack of clarity surrounding the management of the case involving these brothers," he said. "I am very conscious that the way in which this information has come into the public domain has contributed to the distress of the victims and their families, and it is for that reason that I have asked Dr Maguire to carry out a detailed investigation."

The chief inspector will not examine the detail of the McDermott case itself.

Mr Ford added: "What I am asking him to do is take a detailed look at the way in which such cases are managed by the justice system. It is vital that the public have confidence about the way in which these matters are dealt with and I am determined that lessons are learned by all of the agencies involved."

SDLP Stormont justice committee member Conall McDevitt said senior management arrangements in the Courts and Tribunals Service should be reviewed. He added that the Justice Minister had sent a letter to members of the committee.

"Today we are told the Sexual Offences Protection Order (Sopo) was wrong, that there were mistakes in the Bill of Indictment and that the notification documents were not served on the McDermott brothers. This all points to systemic failure in the court service's management of these cases," he said.

"It is essential that David Ford takes urgent steps to get to the cause of these failures while ensuring that child protection and safeguarding is taken seriously and placed at the heart of everything his department and the Northern Ireland courts service do."

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