RUC officers slammed over failings in handling of Kincora boys’ home sex abuse
Survivor Gary Hoy said: ‘I have campaigned for 10 years to get justice for what I suffered at Kincora. It haunts me and never leaves my mind’
Four RUC officers failed in their duty to victims of sexual abuse at Kincora boys’ home in the 1970s, a damning Police Ombudsman report will say.
For the last seven years, the watchdog has been investigating how the RUC handled abuse at the notorious boys’ home in east Belfast decades ago.
The investigation came after eight Kincora victims lodged complaints to the Police Ombudsman in 2015.
The Ombudsman, Marie Anderson, has sent reports to the survivors, two of which have been seen exclusively by the Belfast Telegraph.
In her conclusions, she said that based on the available evidence and other information that four named officers - two of high rank - “failed in their duty to you and other victims of Kincora because they did not act on the information provided to them during the 1973-76 period”.
But the report states that “as there was insufficient evidence to conclude that any identifiable officer may have committed a criminal offence, it was decided that a file of evidence was not required” to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In 1981, three staff members at Kincora — William McGrath, Joseph Mains and Raymond Semple — were jailed for a number of sexual assaults.
After an anonymous phone call in April 1973, stating that McGrath was sexually assaulting boys in the home, one constable’s actions consisted solely of obtaining a character reference for McGrath from Mains, his line manager. Mains said McGrath was a “good chap”, who held strong religious beliefs and “was high up in the Orange Order”.
Following this, the constable recommended that police take no further action.
Another victim was found to have raised concerns about McGrath sexually abusing a number of teenage boys, including himself, to a detective constable in 1974.
The claims detailed that McGrath possessed a massage machine and had taken photographs or videos of boys when they were naked.
The detective constable did not notify his line management, but rather passed the information to a named senior colleague, who instructed the detective constable to submit a report to him relating to the matter.
The report, from March 1974 contained no information relating to William McGrath sexually assaulting a named individual, or other juveniles. Instead, it focused on McGrath’s political, religious and business activities. However, a number of sections of the document have been redacted, and so the Ombudsman and investigators could not review its full contents.
The senior officer confirmed to an RUC investigation in 1980 that he received the report from the detective constable, but believed it had “insufficient evidence” to merit it being referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Ombudsman found that he ought to have supervised and directed the detective constable in taking further action.
The report concludes there is no evidence suggesting a second named senior officer forwarded information provided by a named whistleblower on to Mountpottinger RUC station, and that the information she provided should have prompted him to launch a formal police investigation.
Survivor Richard Kerr — who filed a High Court case in 2015 against four government agencies in Belfast seeking damages for his experiences at Kincora — was sent to live there in 1975 aged 14. He claims he was taken out of the care home and introduced to other men for sex at hotels, but the Ombudsman report refers solely to incidents at Kincora reported to the RUC.
He says while he now has “some sense that some of the truth has come out”, he is disappointed that “not all of it” had.
“I understand these things take time, I understand there is a process. It’s been very emotional and I just had to take it one day at a time. I knew this would not be easy. But, I also know that keeping onto these secrets keeps me sick and I’ve got to get the truth out, one way or another,” he told this newspaper.
“They’re so determined for me not to speak my truth, and not to go to court. The state has gone out of their way to delay this. Seven years for this is ridiculous.”
An attempt has previously been made to strike out Mr Kerr’s case at the High Court.
“I don’t have much faith in the system,” he added. “The PSNI are saying they are not responsible for me or for any of that, but I explained to them that they took over the institutions and they took my files with them. Even though they changed their names, they have the information and they took on the responsibility.
“If we don’t deal with the past, we’re not going to be able to look forward to the future and be able to stop this, or try and have a better way of dealing with it. That’s the point. I’m relying on the state and it’s the same institutions that let me down in the first place.”
Gary Hoy, another survivor, added: “I have campaigned for 10 years to get justice for what I suffered at Kincora. It haunts me and never leaves my mind. I was tortured in there and my mind is tortured every single day since. You can’t get it out of your head. Nothing blocks it out.
“These findings took far too long, but I didn’t need this report to tell me that the police were at fault. I now hope I can get my case to court without further obstruction by state bodies who neglected us vulnerable children and allowed us to be violated by sick predators repeatedly. Many ask me why my case is taking so long.
“No one wants the truth of what happened in Kincora to come out as we know it went right to the top. Why else were we ignored and left there to be ruined?”
Claire McKeegan, a partner at Phoenix Law who is acting for eight survivors of Kincora, welcomed the report’s “stark findings”, which have “confirmed their suspicions all these years” and “are further vindication for our clients who have civil cases before the High Court against the police, the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Department of Health and NIO”.
The Ombudsman’s report also states that “given the passage of time, it has not been possible to identify all those responsible for actions or omissions criticised by me”.
The majority of RUC officers mentioned are also now deceased, retired or were unable to assist in the investigation due to ill health.
In the 1970s, the RUC had no protocols in place for the investigation of sexual offences against children, and so the Ombudsman also said that she has “no recommendations to make to the PSNI” as today they “thoroughly investigate” such issues.
Chief Superintendent Anthony McNally, head of the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch said the processes at the time were “radically different to that of today”, which are now “very much based on a multi-agency approach, allowing all safeguarding agencies to effectively share vital information and promptly work to put protective measures in place for victims and potential victims”.
He said his thoughts are with the victims “who suffered unimaginably”.
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