Published Date: 23.09.2022
The Police Ombudsman, Mrs Marie Anderson, has written to the former residents of Kincora Boys’ Home who had made complaints to her Office about failures by police to adequately respond to complaints of sexual abuse which occurred within the Home.
The Police Ombudsman received seven complaints on behalf of former residents about the failure of police to investigate complaints of sexual abuse that had been made to the police.
Based on the available evidence and other information, the Police Ombudsman is of the view that a number of the complaints made to her Office by former residents of Kincora Boys’ Home are legitimate and justified.
The Ombudsman has identified that former police officers failed in their duty to the victims of Kincora because they did not act on the information provided to them during the 1973-1976 period.
Former police officers failed in their duty by not acting on information between 1973-1976.
The Ombudsman has also identified systemic failings which prevented police from being aware of complaints of sexual abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home which had been made to the Belfast Welfare Authority and the former Eastern Health and Social Services Board (EHSSB).
Mrs Anderson said: “The boys who were sent to Kincora were vulnerable children. They were placed in the care of the state where they ought to have been safe and protected. The evidence identified by my investigation and previous reviews and inquiries demonstrates that this was not the case.
“When boys complained about the abuse they experienced there is evidence that their accounts were ignored or not taken seriously or were not adequately investigated by the Belfast Welfare Authority or the EHSSB. Complaints were not referred to the police.
Systemic failings meant complaints were not referred to police.
“I have identified systemic failings and a convoluted complaints system which resulted in police not being aware of all instances of sexual abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home. However, I have also identified occasions when police officers did not act appropriately on the information that had been provided to them and intelligence they had received.
“Nothing can undo the trauma caused by the sexual abuse experienced by these boys but I hope that this independent investigation into the conduct of former police officers can bring some measure of resolution to the victims and their families.”
Seven complaints on behalf of former residents of Kincora Boys’ Home were made to the former Police Ombudsman, Dr Maguire, about the failure of the RUC in investigate complaints of sexual abuse that had been made to the police by Kincora residents.
The Police Ombudsman commenced an investigation into the complaints, assessing the law and standards for police at the relevant time, the information that police had received about Kincora Boys’ Home, and relevant investigations, reviews and inquiries.
Based on the available evidence and other information, the Police Ombudsman is of the view that a number of the complaints made to her Office by or on behalf of former residents of Kincora Boys’ Home are legitimate and justified.
The Police Ombudsman is of the view that a number of former police officers failed in their duty to the victims of Kincora because they did not act on the information provided to them during the 1973-1976 period.
The information which police received in this period included a number of serious allegations relating to the activities William McGrath that amounted to criminal behaviour which required investigation.
The Police Ombudsman’s investigation identified systemic failings, including a convoluted complaints system which resulted in police not being aware of all the instances of sexual abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home.
The Police Ombudsman concurs with the findings of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in relation to RUC systemic findings, particularly the failure of the RUC to approach the Eastern Health and Social Services Board (EHSSB) at a higher level.
The Police Ombudsman is of the view, based on the available evidence and other information, that the RUC failed to ensure that a wider assessment of emerging evidence was undertaken and that police failed to communicate effectively with the EHSSB regarding its duty of care obligations towards the residents of Kincora Boys’ Home.
1 Background to the Police Ombudsman Investigation
Between 2014 and 2017, the then Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, received a number of complaints from former residents of Kincora Boys’ Home on the Newtownards Road, Belfast.
The complaints contained a number of allegations regarding sexual abuse at Kincora and the failure of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to investigate complaints of sexual abuse that had been made to police by Kincora residents.
These complaints were accepted for investigation by the Police Ombudsman under Section 52 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 (the 1998 Act).
The RUC (Complaints etc.) Regulations 2001 (the 2001 Regulations) allow the Police Ombudsman to consider public complaints which are outside the normal time limit, namely made within 12 months of the alleged conduct, if they ‘should be investigated because of the gravity of the matter or the exceptional circumstances.’
Dr Maguire was of the view that the complaints made by former Kincora residents met this ‘grave or exceptional’
definition and the complaints were accepted for investigation.
The Police Ombudsman investigation did not consider the enquiries which had been led by Detective Chief Inspector Caskey (now deceased) as the Police Ombudsman is not permitted to re-visit matters which have already been subject to investigation. Regulation 5(3)(f) of the 2001 Regulations also states that complaints received under section 52 of the 1998 Act can only be investigated if ‘the complaint has not otherwise been investigated by the police.’
2 Relevant RUC Procedures
During the 1970s, the RUC had no specialist units and/or procedures in place for the investigation of child sexual offences. There was no multi-agency approach as exists now, and no formal reporting arrangement existed between the RUC and the then Eastern Health and Social Services Board (EHSSB). Allegations of child sexual abuse received by the EHSSB were initially reviewed internally by that body before being forwarded, if deemed necessary, to the Town Solicitor, Mr Young. He would then decide whether a referral to police was required.
Police Ombudsman investigators established that a number of allegations of child sexual abuse were made to the EHSSB during this period were not subsequently referred to the RUC by the EHSSB or the Town Solicitor.
The Cleveland Inquiry, and lessons learnt from other child abuse investigations across the United Kingdom, led to the establishment of the first specialist CARE (Child Abuse and Rape Enquiry) Unit in England in 1988. However, working partnerships between the RUC and Social Services were not formalised in Northern Ireland until 1992, when joint working arrangements were first introduced.
Today, a multi-agency response is adopted when PSNI receive allegations of child sexual abuse. The Safeguarding (Northern Ireland) Act 2012 established the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland. That Act placed a statutory duty on all relevant statutory agencies, including the PSNI, to work together to promote and safeguard the welfare of children and young people.
Child sexual abuse allegations reported to PSNI are now investigated by Public Protection Units (PPUs). Every PPU is aligned to a Health and Social Care Trust under a single management structure. The units are staffed by specialist police officers, trained in the investigation of child sexual abuse allegations. Current structures ensure a more effective and efficient approach to the investigation of child sexual abuse allegations. This is clearly demonstrated by the use of the multi-agency approach. These structures and processes did not exist at the time of the Kincora Boys’ Home sexual abuse complaints.
3 Previous Investigations and Inquiries
In January 1980, the ‘Irish Independent’ newspaper published an article entitled ‘Sex Racket at a Children’s Home’
. The article alleged that boys were recruited from Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast for ’homosexual prostitution.’
As a result of this newspaper article, police commenced an investigation of complaints of sexual abuse relating to Kincora Boys’ Home. This investigation was led by Detective Chief Inspector George Caskey (now deceased).
In April 1980, police arrested William McGrath, Joseph Mains, and Raymond Semple, all members of staff at Kincora Boys’ Home. Following a comprehensive police investigation a file was submitted to the DPP who directed that all three men be prosecuted for a number of sexual offences, including Buggery, Gross Indecency, and Indecent Assault.
In December 1981, William McGrath pleaded guilty to 15 offences and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. Joseph Mains pleaded guilty to six offences and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. Raymond Semple pleaded guilty to four offences and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. All three individuals served half of their custodial sentences before being released. Messrs McGrath, Mains, and Semple are now deceased.
As a result of comments made by the trial Judge in December 1981 and media reports, including a BBC Spotlight documentary, the RUC commenced a second investigation in early February 1982, also led by Detective Chief Inspector Caskey. This related to allegations of criminal negligence by the RUC, EHSSB, military and other public figures.
In late 1982, Sir George Terry, the then Chief Constable of Sussex Constabulary, was appointed by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) to review the initial RUC investigation conducted by D/Chief Inspector Caskey. The review had been requested by the then RUC Chief Constable, Sir John Hermon.
In late 1982, D/Chief Inspector Caskey completed the second RUC investigation, concluding that there was no evidence to support allegations of a police or military ‘cover-up’
regarding Kincora Boys’ Home or the reported existence of a ‘vice ring.’
He later conducted two further investigations, relating to further allegations of a ‘cover-up.’
Files of evidence were forwarded to the DPP in 1983 and 1985, who directed ‘No Prosecution’ in respect of the members of the public concerned.
In May 2012, the then Northern Ireland First Minister and deputy First Minister announced the establishment of an Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland (HIAI), chaired by Sir Anthony Hart. This examined historical abuse at a number of institutions, including Kincora Boys’ Home, over the period 1922-1995. Its findings were presented to the First Minister and deputy First Minister in January 2017.
The HIAI report identified a number of failings in relation to the RUC.
4 Terms of Reference for the Police Ombudsman Investigation
Former residents of Kincora made a number of complaints which were accepted for investigation under section 56 of the 1998 Act by the former Police Ombudsman, Dr Maguire. This investigation has examined the relevant RUC actions in accordance with the Terms of Reference set out below:
- That police failed to investigate allegations of sexual abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home;
- That police were aware that boys were being sexually abused at Kincora Boys’ Home but failed to take any action; and;
- That police investigations were interfered with, and compromised by, other security/intelligence agencies.
There were also specific complaints about individual officers made to the Police Ombudsman that were investigated.
Police Ombudsman investigators examined all the evidence and intelligence that was available to RUC officers investigating complaints of sexual abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home during the relevant period. They also examined what, if any, action police took in respect of this information. This investigation focussed on the conduct of RUC officers from 1958, when the Home opened, until January 1980, when the abuse was exposed in the ‘Irish Independent’ newspaper. It did not consider the subsequent RUC investigation led by D/Chief Inspector Caskey. Material was also obtained from a number of other reviews and inquiries, in addition to the PPS, Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), and other open sources.
Given the passage of time, the majority of the RUC officers referred to in this investigation are either deceased or were unable to assist this investigation due to ill-health. Police Ombudsman investigators examined all the evidence submitted by them in respect of previous police investigations, reviews and inquiries. Police Ombudsman investigators interviewed D/Chief Inspector Caskey (now deceased), who led the RUC investigations from 1980 onwards.
5 The Police Ombudsman Investigation
Police Ombudsman investigators established that the RUC received information relating to Kincora Boys’ Home and William McGrath’s activities prior to January 1980. The EHSSB were also aware of allegations from Kincora Boys’ Home concerning the activities of Messrs McGrath, Mains and Semple. Police Ombudsman investigators reviewed each of these allegations to establish the information held by the RUC and what, if any, subsequent action was taken by police.
The Police Ombudsman investigation reviewed the following complaints and concerns raised about Kincora Boys’ Home:
6 Review of RUC Intelligence 1958-1980
- Three complaints of sexual abuse from residents of Kincora Boys’ Home which were made to the Belfast Welfare Authority from 1967 to 1971. The Police Ombudsman found no evidence that these complaints were referred to police.
- A complaint made to social workers by a resident of Kincora Boys’ Home in 1971. The Police Ombudsman could find no record of this complaint having been referred to the police.
- Concerns about the conduct of William McGrath which were made by an anonymous caller to the police Robophone system in 1973. The Police Ombudsman identified that inquiries were made about the allegations in the message but that no further police action was taken.
- An anonymous telephone call to the Belfast Welfare Authority in 1974 alleging that sexual abuse of residents was occurring at Kincora Boys’ Home. The Police Ombudsman could find no record that the police were made aware of this call.
- Allegations about the sexual conduct of William McGrath made to police by Roy Garland in 1974 and 1976. The Police Ombudsman identified that these allegations were contained within a police report but did not result in a formal investigation of the allegations.
- Concerns made to a senior police officer by Valerie Shaw in 1974. The Police Ombudsman investigation was unable to locate any police records relating to this information and could not identify any reference to the information having been forwarded to Mountpottinger RUC Station.
- Complaints of sexual abuse made to the EHSSB by a resident of Kincora Boys’ Home in 1974. The Police Ombudsman found no record that EHSSB referred this matter to the police.
- A complaint of sexual abuse made to a social worker by a resident of Kincora Boys’ Home in 1977. The Police Ombudsman found no evidence that the EHSSB referred this matter to the police.
- The concerns of a police officer in 1977 that a resident of Kincora Boys’ Home was in a sexual relationship with Joseph Mains. The Police Ombudsman identified that no police investigation into these concerns had taken place.
Police Ombudsman investigators reviewed RUC intelligence between 1958-1980 to determine what, if any, information police held about William McGrath, Joseph Mains, Raymond Semple, and allegations of sexual abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home. This investigation identified no information held by police relating to either Joseph Mains or Raymond Semple.
7 The Actions of RUC Special Branch
William McGrath first came to the attention of RUC Special Branch in 1966, after he attended a rally organised by the Reverend Ian Paisley. In 1973, he was identified as the Commanding Officer of a loyalist paramilitary organisation. On 16 April 1973, police received information that William McGrath was a ‘reputed homosexual’
who initiated sexual encounters to ‘ensnare’
young men to join his organisation.
On 18 April 1973, police received intelligence from the military, again stating that Mr McGrath was a homosexual. Neither piece of information made any reference to sexual abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home.
Police Ombudsman investigators were unable to establish whether this intelligence/information was disseminated to local police. It is unclear whether local police officers, who had regular dealings with residents and staff at Kincora Boys’ Home, would have been aware of the information relating to Mr McGrath.
The only two references to Kincora were received via the anonymous Robophone message received by the RUC on 23 April 1973 and in a police report compiled following the ‘Irish Independent’ newspaper article published in January 1980.
8 Allegations of a ‘Vice Ring’ at Kincora Boys’ Home
It is not the role of the Police Ombudsman to establish whether or not there was a ‘vice ring’
. The role of the Police Ombudsman is to investigate the actions (including omissions) of police in relation to the allegations made by the residents of Kincora Boys’ Home.
Police Ombudsman investigators established that the 1980 RUC investigation traced and interviewed 104 of 245 boys who resided at Kincora Boys’ Home between1963-1980. Of these, 46 alleged that they had been sexually abused during their time at the Home. A number of their accounts formed part of the prosecution case against William McGrath, Joseph Mains, and Raymond Semple. None of 104 residents alleged that they had been abused as part of a ‘vice ring’
to the Caskey investigation.
9 Systemic Failings
It is understandable that vulnerable young boys, living in an institutional setting would have been reluctant to have made complaints of sexual abuse against individuals in authority who were responsible for their welfare. This was exacerbated by a convoluted complaints system that involved complaints having to pass through social workers, the Town Solicitor, and senior EHSSB officials, before being referred to police. These combined factors resulted in police not being aware of all the instances of sexual abuse at Kincora Boy’s Home.
Police Ombudsman investigators found no evidence that complaints were made to police about Raymond Semple prior to the 1980 RUC investigation. The Police Ombudsman notes and concurs with the findings of the HIAI Inquiry in relation to RUC systemic failures, particularly the failure of the RUC to approach the EHSSB at a higher level than Joseph Mains. The Police Ombudsman is of the view, based on the available evidence and other information that the RUC failed to ensure that a wider assessment of emerging evidence was undertaken. Police failed to communicate effectively with the EHSSB following the receipt of information highlighting concerns of abuse of residents in 1973, 1974 and 1976 regarding its duty of care obligations towards the residents of Kincora Boys’ Home.
Police Ombudsman investigators found no evidence that any of the police investigations referred to in this correspondence were interfered with, either internally or externally, by other organisations.
Although a matter for police, this investigation has not identified any evidence that Kincora Boys’ Home was the centre of a ‘vice’
ring and therefore the Police Ombudsman has made no finding in respect of police failings in this regard.
This investigation identified a systemic failing relating to a culture of non-disclosure of information. The Police Ombudsman is of the view that, had the reports relating to William McGrath been linked, it is most likely that they would have been fully investigated by police.
In the 1970s, the RUC had no protocols in place for the investigation of sexual offences against children. These allegations were investigated by either CID detectives or uniformed officers. There was no specialist unit in place for the investigation of sexual offences. There were also no recognised information-sharing processes or a multi-agency approach in place between the RUC and EHSSB during the period in question. The absence of information-sharing processes pre-dated the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1984. Given this, the Police Ombudsman is not critical of their absence in this instance.
The Police Ombudsman is aware that significant changes have been made to ensure that, today, PSNI thoroughly investigate allegations of child sexual abuse. This is demonstrated by the adoption of a multi-agency approach to the investigation of these serious matters.
It is noteworthy that individuals applying for either paid employment or voluntary positions within sectors dealing specifically with children, young people, and vulnerable adults must be subjected to rigorous security vetting conducted by police on behalf of Access NI. This has now been adopted as a statutory obligation.
10 Overall Conclusions
The investigation of complaints about historical matters is challenging due to the passage of time and unavailability of relevant witnesses and missing documentation. However, this investigation gathered and reviewed a considerable amount of evidence and material. This included documentation from the 1980 RUC investigation, the Terry Review, the Hughes Inquiry, and the HIAI report.
Although the duties of a police officer in the 1970s were not provided for in legislation, the RUC Investigation Manual, from 1976 onwards, stated that where a crime had been committed, police should immediately commence an investigation. It added that, where no direct witness evidence existed, police should interview all individuals who might be able to provide relevant information. It also emphasised the importance of police officers collating information about criminality in the areas where they worked. The Manual required that each police station maintain a pre-arranged action plan relating to the investigation of individual offences. The Police Ombudsman is of the view that an action plan should have been implemented in respect of criminal offences that were reported to police from 1976 onwards.
The Police Ombudsman is of the view, based on the available evidence and other information, that a number of the complaints received by former residents of Kincora Boys’ Home about RUC failings are legitimate and justified. In particular, that police officers failed in their duty to the victims of Kincora because they did not act on the information provided to them during the 1973-1976 period. This information included serious abuse allegations relating to William McGrath that amounted to criminal behaviour which required investigation.
The Police Ombudsman is of the view that former police officers:
- Failed to properly investigate the contents of an anonymous telephone call in April 1973.
- Failed to ensure that allegations made by Roy Garland in 1974 and 1976 were investigated.
- Failed to ensure that an investigation was conducted into allegations made by Valerie Shaw in June 1974.
The conduct of these police officers was a serious matter as they failed to meet the standards set out in the RUC Investigations Manual. Police were aware that William McGrath was a ‘reputed homosexual’
but his activities although illegal at the time, were not subject to a formal investigation during the period under investigation by the Police Ombudsman.
This investigation has established that four reports were made to the EHSSB between 1971 and 1977.
None of these reports were referred by the EHSSB to police.
Given the passage of time and significant changes as to how allegations of sexual abuse of children and young people are investigated today, the Police Ombudsman has no recommendations to make to PSNI.
The investigation into the complaints received by former residents of Kincora Boys’ Home has now concluded and the case is now closed. The Police Ombudsman can assure the complainants, and the public, that the matter has been investigated thoroughly and that an objective assessment has been made of the available evidence, intelligence, and other information.
The Police Ombudsman thanks the victims and those who brought complaints on their behalf for their patience in awaiting the outcome of the investigations into their complaints.