Belfast Telegraph

Muckamore public inquiry calls grow as CCTV films 1,500 crimes in one ward

Muckamore Abbey Hospital, where a number of staff are suspended
Muckamore Abbey Hospital, where a number of staff are suspended
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

Shocking CCTV footage showing 1,500 crimes being committed on a single ward of Muckamore Abbey Hospital has prompted fresh calls for a public inquiry.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson previously challenged former Secretary of State Karen Bradley to launch an inquiry into reports of rampant abuse within the psychiatric intensive care unit.

Now the DUP representative - who has been left "horrified" at the official handling of the catalogue of abuse - is calling on her successor Julian Smith to take urgent action.

It comes after the lead police officer investigating reports of abuse over a six-month period in 2017/18 revealed that a high volume of serious incidents were caught on camera.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Jill Duffie told the Irish News that officers are still busy examining 300,000 hours of footage, which had captured the "very traumatic" events.

The footage, which showed repeated physical abuse of vulnerable patients, is being looked at minute-by-minute as part of the "largest adult safeguarding case" undertaken by the PSNI.

"These patients would not normally have been able to tell anyone what was happening to them," DCI Duffie added.

"And that is why it is so crucial in this case that we have the CCTV evidence."

Mr Robinson called for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust to be fully investigated over its "systemic failures". "Every element of this horror story must be reviewed," he added. "Every system. Every decision."

Mr Robinson warned that a police investigation may hold individuals accountable for criminal acts, but will not fix "flawed systems" or help safeguard vulnerable people.

"There must be a full, open public inquiry so that abuses like this can be guarded against ever happening again," he said.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said there is "no question a full public inquiry is required" as she called on the Secretary of State to act.

She also demanded assurances that patients will be moved out of the hospital within weeks - as opposed to a December deadline announced by the Department of Health - to allow police to probe the full extent of the scandal.

"The sheer scale of the abuse and criminal activity recorded will understandably shake public confidence, not just in this facility but in residential health and social care provision more generally," Ms Bradshaw added.

Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew said the footage showed the need for a "thorough and robust" investigation into wrongdoing at the hospital, which has already seen 20 staff suspended.

"It is important for affected patients and their families we get to the truth of what happened but it is also vital in ensuring it is not allowed to happen again," he added.

A spokesperson for the Belfast Trust said it is working with stakeholders including other trusts to ensure each long term patient has a home which best meets their needs.

They also said the wellbeing of patients is the primary concern.

A Government spokesperson said "it is unacceptable that vulnerable patients did not receive the care and attention they were entitled to from a public institution" but added that it would be inappropriate to comment further until the police investigation has concluded.

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