Revealed: sex abuse claims against 50 men in Fermanagh
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Allegations of child sex abuse have been made against over 50 different men in Fermanagh to this newspaper since March of this year but nobody has yet been questioned by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, The Impartial Reporter can reveal.
The shocking number of allegations against men here, a small number of whom are now dead, has prompted Democratic Unionist peer Maurice Morrow to accuse the police of “stonewalling” in its investigation into historic child sex abuse.
Since this newspaper launched its major series looking into sex abuse claims in this county over 30 alleged victims have been in touch to tell us their stories. Some of those alleged victims have already shared their stories on these pages, and others have yet to do so.
In most of these cases the alleged victims had already been in touch with the Police Service of Northern Ireland or previously the Royal Ulster Constabulary but were left disappointed at the apparent inaction or failure by the police to investigate the claims.
It’s understood that not one alleged perpetrator has been spoken to by police since the allegations in this newspaper first emerged.
In a statement issued to The Impartial Reporter on Tuesday, Lord Morrow said: “The revelations over recent weeks are frankly shocking and I remain deeply concerned on both the content and the response of police.”
“No one is disputing police need statements from complainants in order to progress cases but it is crucially important those who have information are natured through the process. Police are now stonewalling so it appears impossible to even guess matters are being investigated,” he said.
The former Chairman of Stormont’s Justice Committee said the feedback he has received in relation to the performance of police who launched a specialist team to investigate historical sex abuse here has been “poor”.
“I fail to comprehend how police can on one hand publicly say they are deploying a specialist team, but on the other are failing to properly follow up enquiries. Absent formal clarification, questions are bound to mount up.
“Police should not just be speaking to those with information, but listening. Significant reassurance is required as many – and I speak as someone who attended with police on multiple occasions from 2015 in respect of a particular case – are far from confident in handling to date.”
Lord Morrow added: “I am also troubled police were swift to rule out a potential sex-abuse ring when no statements had been taken, therefore no grounds to carry out in-depth investigations.
“It is the role of police to gather the evidence, the role of PPS to decide if there are to be criminal charges, and the role of the courts to decide definitively.
“It is not for police to dismiss claims before they have been investigated fully. For the sake of everyone, but specifically the victims, I am calling on police to treat this with the seriousness it merits.”
The DUP peer said there are “too many victims naming too many abusers and all recounting a similar response from authorities, despite few even aware of each other’s’ existence”.
“This distressing situation is simply not going to evaporate and until police demonstrate commitment to victims, it will get much, much worse,” he told this newspaper.
In a statement yesterday (Wednesday) a PSNI spokeswoman explained that its Public Protection Branch receive and investigate reports of child sexual abuse, both recent and historical, every day and are “committed to gathering all relevant information and evidence in relation to all reports made to us in the Fermanagh area, and indeed across Northern Ireland”.
“The gathering of evidence, which includes recording of statements, is a decision that is made by the Investigating Officer on a case by case basis. Public Protection Officers, specially trained in achieving best evidence and supporting victims of abuse, will take into consideration their vulnerability and wellbeing, seeking advice from experts when it is in the best interests of the investigation to make a statement or not, and ensuring victims are emotionally supported to provide their evidence.
“In relation to the reports of historical sexual abuse in Fermanagh, a statement will be recorded from all victims who wish to do so. In order to protect the integrity of those cases we are currently investigating and reviewing, we cannot comment further at this time,” said the spokeswoman in a statement issued to this newspaper yesterday (Wednesday).