Friday 23 February 2018

Minister defends social workers over paedophile brothers

Social workers who handled the case of two paedophile brothers who controversially returned to live in the County Fermanagh village where they committed abuse should not be hung out to dry, the North's Health Minister insisted today.

Michael McGimpsey told the Assembly that health trust employees involved with James and Owen-Roe McDermott had no role in approving their accommodation in the family home in Donagh.

The pair abused children in the border village over a 30-year period, but were judged mentally unfit to stand trial. A subsequent court order allowed them to return to live in Donagh, prompting a public outcry.

While the brothers have now voluntarily admitted themselves into residential care, the fall-out from the controversy continues and today saw both Mr McGimpsey and Justice Minister David Ford called to answer urgent Assembly questions at Stormont.

The Health Minister, who has initiated an overall review of the case, faced claims from MLAs that a Western Health and Social Care Trust social worker present at the brothers' court case approved the accommodation.

But Mr McGimpsey denied this, insisting that trust employees had no role in selecting an appropriate residency.

"As far as the supervising officer - the social worker - is concerned, I will not have social services or social workers hung out to dry when they are trying to do their best and, in fact, doing it professionally and properly as they are asked to do acting as prosecution witnesses," he said.

"In the court (the social worker) did not make any recommendations about residency - the order was made by the court returning the two individuals to their family home and the supervising officer did not have any legal ability whatsoever to challenge that.

"That is the decision by the court and the social worker could not have challenged that.

"If the individuals decided they were not going to stay in the family home as laid down by the court then the supervising officer has a role - it does not have a role in challenging the judge in the judge's court, that's a matter for the judge."

Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly Member Arlene Foster asked the minister to explain how a doctor had told the court that he did not see any other address the brothers could stay at.

Mr McGimpsey said it was his understanding that the doctor was an independent prosecution witness, not a trust employee.

Yesterday, Mr Ford announced a review of his department's role in the affair.

Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice Dr Michael Maguire will carry out the investigation.

An audit has been carried out on other court rulings against sexual offenders after it emerged that there had been a clerical error in the sexual offences prevention order issued to the McDermotts, wrongly stating it should last for five years when the judge had intended for it for life.

Mr Ford told the Assembly that this had no impact on the brothers' case as the error was identified within months of the order being issued.

Press Association

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