Muckamore probe begins

PUBLIC hearings in the inquiry into allegations of abuse of patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital got underway in Belfast this week.

Proceedings started with a statement from the inquiry’s chair Tom Kark QC, who said it was obvious that ‘bad practices were allowed to persist’, to the detriment of patients who were ‘without exception highly vulnerable’.

Other participants include parents of patients, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust which is in charge of the hospital, the Department of Health, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) and the PSNI.

Muckamore Abbey Hospital is at the centre of the UK’s biggest ever police investigation into the abuse of vulnerable adults. Detectives have viewed about 300,000 hours of CCTV footage from inside the hospital and have arrested 34 people; so far eight people have been charged, and more than 70 staff have been suspended as a precaution.

In December 2018, a catalogue of abuse and neglect in the hospital was revealed in a report commissioned by the Belfast Trust to examine safeguarding at the hospital between 2012 and 2017.

Among its findings were that patients’ lives had been compromised, staff did not follow safeguarding protocols and that CCTV footage showed patients being harmed by staff. Some staff working at the hospital are alleged to have carried out physical and mental abuse as well as ‘wilful neglect’ of vulnerable patients.

Monday’s public inquiry was announced last September and has since been preparing for the public hearings, including meeting families.

The inquiry is to be wholly independent and not accountable to the Department of Health, the Stormont Executive, the Northern Ireland Assembly or any public body.

Families expect some of the proceedings to be harrowing, including seeing the footage that involves their loved ones.

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