Brother's sex abuse case comes back to haunt Gerry Adams
Exclusive: Police 'tipped off' Sinn Fein leader about case before trial
Published 14/05/2014 | 02:30
SINN Fein leader Gerry Adams is at the centre of a fresh controversy over his brother's conviction for child abuse.
It has emerged that the Police Ombudsman in the North is investigating an allegation he was briefed by police about details of the case against his paedophile brother before he gave evidence against him at trial.
Liam Adams was later found guilty of raping and sexually abusing his daughter and handed a 16-year sentence, half of which he is expected to serve behind bars.
The Irish Independent understands that the ombudsman is now probing claims that details of the PSNI investigation into Liam Adams were discussed by a police officer with the Sinn Fein leader before he gave evidence against his brother.
If the new allegation were to be upheld, it could result in the officer being disciplined and could also constitute a contempt of court.
It could also form part of the basis of Liam Adams's appeal against his conviction.
In a separate probe, the ombudsman is also investigating if detectives properly examined whether Gerry Adams covered up his brother's crimes – by not telling police for nine years that Liam Adams had confessed to child sex abuse.
Gerry Adams has insisted he committed no offence, and accused political rivals of exploiting a family issue to attack him.
"I reject any suggestion that I was briefed by the PSNI. If the police ombudsman's office is carrying out an investigation then it should be allowed to get on with it. I have not been contacted by it and know nothing about this," he told the Irish Independent last night.
He is currently leading Sinn Fein into local and European elections on both sides of the border.
But this marks the latest twist in a long saga involving the Adams brothers, and comes just a fortnight after Gerry Adams was arrested by PSNI officers probing the murder of Jean McConville in 1972.
He was held for four days at the serious crime suite in Antrim police station before being released, with a file to be sent to the North's prosecution service.
He repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder of the mother of 10, whose body was missing for almost 30 years before being found on a beach in Co Louth – a county that Gerry Adams now represents as a TD.
The latest controversy arose after Gerry Adams gave evidence for the prosecution during his brother's trial in April last year.
That trial collapsed, but Liam Adams was found guilty during a second trial of raping and sexually assaulting his daughter Aine Dahlstrom when she was aged between four and nine in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Gerry Adams was not called to give evidence during the second trial.
In recent weeks Liam Adams's second wife, Bronagh, made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman's Office, alleging that information about the PSNI investigation were discussed with the Sinn Fein president ahead of trial.
It has also been claimed that details of the case were discussed by an officer during a public meeting.
A source close to the Liam Adams investigation said that his wife made the complaint as she believed that this had led to an unfair trial.
The Police Ombudsman could not go into any details about the complaint as the investigation is ongoing, but a spokesman said: "We received a complaint that information about an ongoing police investigation was discussed with a witness in the case, and also at a public meeting.
"The Police Ombudsman is now investigating that complaint." The PSNI said it would be inappropriate to comment on the complaint as it was under investigation by the Police Ombudsman.
DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig described the ombudsman's probe as a worrying development. "I do not want to prejudice the ombudsman's investigation, but it would be an incredibly worrying development if it was upheld.
"The ombudsman must investigate every aspect of what is alleged to have occurred, especially to discover whether this alleged exchange was instigated by the police or by Gerry Adams."
The legal proceedings against Liam Adams raised serious questions for his brother.
It emerged that as far back as 1987 the Sinn Fein president was aware of the abuse allegation against his brother – which Liam Adams denied that same year when confronted by his brother in Buncrana, Co Donegal.
Giving evidence during the first trial, Gerry Adams told the court that in 2000 Liam admitted to him that on one occasion he had sexually assaulted his daughter.
It was not until 2009 that Gerry Adams told police about his brother's partial confession.
The ombudsman is also investigating if detectives did not properly examine whether Gerry Adams covered up the crimes of his sex abuser brother. In 2011, PSNI officers recommended that the Public Prosecution Service take no action against the Sinn Fein veteran. But the DUP recently asked the watchdog to examine how the PSNI handled the republican leader's apparent failure to alert police to the abuse, when he first learned of it.