Assembly Committee Dismay At Departmental Revelations

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 03 September 2010

Reference: Jus01/10/11

The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Justice has expressed concern at the information that came to light during its meeting yesterday (Thursday 2 September 2010) relating to the McDermott brothers case.

The Committee invited Department of Justice officials to its meeting to brief Members on a gap in legislation relating to individuals declared mentally unfit to stand trial. Committee Members had understood that this gap had resulted in two of the McDermott brothers returning to a village where they committed abuse for 30 years after being declared unfit to stand trial.

Speaking after the meeting, Chairman, Lord Morrow MLA said: “During the briefing by Departmental officials it became clear that the situation that allowed two of the McDermott brothers to return to their village was not due to a gap in legislation as we had been led to believe. Furthermore it would appear that this situation could have been avoided.

“Much to the Committee’s further surprise and concern it also came to light that an administrative error had occurred in transcribing the Supervision and Treatment Order and a revised Order had to be issued.

“To discover the return of the brothers to the village, which caused much distress and anguish, could have been avoided is deeply concerning. The Department of Justice had ample opportunity to clarify the situation during the extensive media coverage following the case. Instead, this information is only now coming to light as a direct result of detailed questioning by Members during yesterday’s meeting.

“The Committee will now take time to review the evidence given by the Departmental officials and the recent statements made by the Minister. At next week’s committee meeting we will decide on the appropriate way forward in relation to this matter.”

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