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Muckamore Abbey Hospital staff members to have case sent to Crown Court next month

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Muckamore Abbey Hospital (Pic: Liam McBurney/PA)

Muckamore Abbey Hospital (Pic: Liam McBurney/PA)

Muckamore Abbey Hospital (Pic: Liam McBurney/PA)

Eight members of staff from Muckamore Abbey Hospital are to have their case sent to the Crown Court next month, a court heard on Tuesday.

District Judge Nigel Broderick scheduled the Preliminary Enquiry (PE) to take place on June 14, and although formally charged, it will be the first time any of the defendants have stood before a judge.

During a brief mention of the case at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, lawyers for the eight defendants said they would give advance notice whether the PE will be able to proceed or not.

The eight defendants are:

  • Naoife Donnelly (38), Red Row, Portglenone - six complainants, 19 charges;
  • James Houston (36), Elliotts Place, Strangford - six complainants, 22 charges;
  • Aaron McFetridge (36), Rosses Stables, Ballymena - six complainants, 24 charges;
  • Dorothy Irwin (58), Glenburn Ave, Glynn - five complainants, 17 charges;
  • Stephen Nixon (age unknown), Creevy Ave, Belfast - six complainants, 34 charges;
  • Danielle Gallagher (30), Dermot Crescent, Newtownabbey- six complainants, 23 charges;
  • Darren O’Kane (33), Creeve Court, Randalstown - seven complainants, 38 charges;
  • Darren O’Loan (35), Aghaboy Gardens, Antrim - four complainants, 19 charges.

In total, there are 131 separate offences of false imprisonment, wilful neglect and ill treatment across the mammoth indictment, including 39 of which with two or more defendants jointly charged on various counts, all of which were allegedly committed against the eight complainants - five men and three women - on various dates between April 25, and September 14, 2017.

In addition, Gallagher, Houston, Irwin and Nixon face a total of 16 charges of making false entries on mental health documents.

The charges arise following a lengthy PSNI investigation into allegations of abuse by staff at the mental health facility on the outskirts of Antrim and to date, 32 people have been arrested with a public inquiry scheduled to begin sometime this year.

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Previous courts have heard that while there is close to 7,000 pages of evidence and statements, the key evidence against the five men and three women is based on CCTV footage.

In court on Tuesday, the defence teams said while they were unlikely to challenge the prosecution contention that each defendant has a case to answer, they may make submissions before the case can be elevated to the Crown Court.

Scheduling the PE for June 14, DJ Broderick said he would review the case on June 7.


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