Saga of abusive brothers is mired in confusion: peer
The chairman of Stormont’s Justice Committee has slammed last week’s claim by the Western Health and Social Care Trust that they were powerless to stop two paedophile brothers returning home to the small Fermanagh village in which they abused children for more than 30 years.
Lord Maurice Morrow said that, after reading the court judgement against James and Owen Roe McDermott, he remained convinced social workers could have done more to stop the brothers returning to the village of Donagh.
The paedophiles walked free from court in June this year after being deemed unfit to plead to a litany of charges including sexual abuse against children, but were made the subject of a two-year supervision and treatment order and placed on the sex offender’s register for life.
On Thursday, the Western Trust’s Chief Executive Elaine Way said the social worker in charge of the supervision of 61-year-old James and his younger brother Owen-Roe (52) was legally obliged to obey a court ruling which allowed the men to return home.
Thursday’s hearing also revealed that the men had been allowed to live at home during the police investigation and court proceedings.
Lord Morrow said the whole process was confused from the outset.
“This is becoming a search to find someone on whom to label blame,” he said.
“Last week the Justice Committee were told, after much questioning, that an administrative error was behind the problem.
“Less than an hour after that the Justice Minister changed the wording of the proffered explanation.
“Clearly no-one knew what |exactly was going on.”
The DUP peer said more should have been done in advance of the court judgment to organise the brothers’ accommodation in the event they would walk free from court.
“Having been involved in the assessment of these men for judgment, Social Services must have known the way this case was heading and should have taken steps to ensure approved accommodation was on standby,” he said.
“In addition, there is a section within the judgment which states provision within the order can be amended at Magistrates Court.
“On evaluating the risks why then did Social Services not go to the Magistrates Court for affirmation on the unsuitability of the residence?”
The brothers voluntarily admitted themselves to hospital in July after residents of the Donagh protested at their return to the village.