Belfast Telegraph

Ombudsman to consider Adams probe

Claims that detectives did not properly investigate whether Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams covered up the crimes of his sex abuser brother are set to be examined by Northern Ireland's police ombudsman.

Stormont's Health Minister Edwin Poots today called for a probe into how the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) handled the republican leader's apparent failure to alert police to his brother Liam's abuse when he first learned of it.

PSNI officers made a recommendation to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) that no prosecution be taken against the Sinn Fein veteran.

Tonight a spokesman for Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said an official complaint had been received.

The ombudsman will now examine the matter before deciding whether a formal investigation should be launched.

The development comes a day after a separate review was triggered into the role of prosecutors who decided not to bring charges against the republican leader.

Mr Adams has been facing mounting criticism over what he told police about his paedophile brother and when.

But today he insisted that he had committed no offence and accused rivals, including Mr Poots' Democratic Unionist Party, of using his family for political ends.

Liam Adams was last week found guilty of a series of rape attacks on his daughter Aine in the 1970s.

During a first trial earlier this year, which ultimately collapsed, the Sinn Fein leader, now a TD in the Irish Republic, claimed he first heard of the sex abuse claims in 1987 and, 13 years later, his younger brother admitted his guilt to him.

The high profile republican has been criticised for not informing the police at the time of the revelations, with his statements to detectives not coming until 2007 and 2009.

Mr Poots told the Northern Ireland Assembly that the police ombudsman should examine the PSNI's role in the case.

"Aine Adams was let down by the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary), she was let down by her uncle Gerry Adams and she has been let down to some extent by the PSNI," he said.

"I welcome the fact that there was a conviction in that case and the good work that was carried out by the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service in bringing Liam Adams to justice but I do think that when it comes to the other issue of the cover-up of the crime, that the PSNI have questions to answer and they need to have those questions answered in a very public way.

"That's why I believe the ombudsman needs to look at the work of the PSNI to date.

"It is a very, very unusual set of circumstances and I think the PSNI should be asking for the ombudsman to look at their work, and, if they don't, I will.

"And I will be looking for independence to be applied in this case so that no one, and I mean no one in the public, has any sense that anybody is above the law."

Tonight a spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said: "We have received a complaint that police did not properly investigate a witness statement made to them in connection with an allegation of child sex abuse."

Yesterday, Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC announced that he had asked Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin to examine the PPS's role in the case.

Earlier Mr Adams, a former MP for West Belfast but now TD for Louth, reiterated his view that he had done nothing wrong.

"I know I committed no offence and I know I did what I considered to be the right thing, and I co-operated fully with the PSNI, with the PPS, with the courts," he said.

"I gave evidence in the courts. So I don't have any concerns about that.

"Obviously, I'm concerned that as members of my family pick up the papers this morning and on the back of this press conference will pick up the newspaper tomorrow morning and wonder why there is such an inordinate attention on this and on me.

"So that's my primary concern. My primary concern isn't about me."

Mr Adams did not give evidence at his brother's second trial, which ended with his conviction last week. Liam Adams, 58, is due to be sentenced next month.

Taking the witness stand in the first trial, which collapsed due to legal reasons, the Sinn Fein leader told Belfast Crown Court he first confronted his brother when they met in Buncrana, Co Donegal, in 1987 and that he had denied the abuse.

He then claimed that his brother later confessed while they were out walking together in the rain in Dundalk, Co Louth, in 2000.

Aine Adams, who has waived her right to anonymity, initially reported the abuse to police in 1987 but did not pursue a prosecution as she believed detectives were more concerned in gathering information on Gerry Adams and other members of their family.

It would be another 20 years before she again asked the police to get involved.

The health minister's recommendation for Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire to look at the case came after he and Stormont Justice committee chairman and DUP colleague Paul Givan last night met PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott to voice concerns.

Mr Poots told the Assembly that the police had not done enough to send out the message that there was "zero tolerance" for both child abusers and attempts to cover up such crimes.

Earlier Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, said suspicions that the police and PPS had not acted appropriately had to be addressed.

"This matter must not be whitewashed any more," he said.

The review by Mr Larkin QC into the PPS's role is expected to last two weeks.

Mr McGrory was actually Mr Adams' lawyer at one point in his career and accompanied him to one interview he gave to police in relation to his brother.

Asked if he was concerned about the Attorney General's inquiry, Mr Adams said that he "generally goes with the flow".

The Sinn Fein chief claimed that he is the victim of a political agenda on both sides of the Irish border and questioned whether Mr Baggott and Mr McGrory had been lobbied for an inquiry.

Mr Adams singled out the Democratic Unionists and the main opposition party in the Irish Republic, Fianna Fail.

"I do take exception to the quite despicable lobbying that's going on," he said.

"I learned that the DUP, at least some of the DUP, and indeed some in Fianna Fail, are coming at this in a political way.

"So I totally and absolutely reject that. But I try to be measured in how I deal with all of this, to be sensible and reasonable."

Referring to a recent scandal involving the leader of the Catholic church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, over allegations he had not alerted police to clerical child abuse claims in the 1970s, Mr Poots contrasted Sinn Fein's response to that episode, when senior members heavily criticised the cardinal, and the case involving Mr Adams.

Gerry Adams has also been under pressure after it emerged that his brother Liam worked with young people in west Belfast and in Co Louth even though allegations of abuse had been made against him.

Today he said that he has had to deal with other cases of alleged sex abuse in Louth, his constituency in the Republic, and in his native west Belfast.

"If a minor had been involved, I have told them that I have to report it to the PSNI or An Garda Siochana, and that they should do the same," he said.

"Even when the old RUC was there, we had a policy that we would report it to the social services in the knowledge that it would go to the RUC. So there is no issue there."

Mr Adams added: "With historical or legacy cases of abuse, when adults come to you, my best advice to them is to get counselling, to take advice from the professionals, to mind themselves.

And if they want to go to the police on these matters I would support them in that.

"I'm making a distinction between minors and adults.

"Minors are different from adults in that adults are capable of making their own decisions on how to deal with the issue. Minors deserve our protection and support."

A PSNI spokesman confirmed that the chief constable had met Mr Poots yesterday to discuss "child exploitation issues".

"During the course of that meeting the Health Minister raised the Liam Adams case along with other issues," he added.

"The Chief Constable explained that the authority for prosecutorial decisions, and any action necessary, correctly rests with the PPS. In the light of the recent trial and guilty verdict the PSNI will now review the evidence and examine any further investigative opportunities.

"This follows the original submission of a file, having taken legal advice, recommending no prosecution in relation to Gerry Adams.

"The Chief Constable also explained his accountability to the Policing Board and Justice Minister (David Ford).

"The Health Minister is entitled to make a complaint to the Ombudsman should he wish to do so."

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