Donagh sex abuse case: court errors had 'no impact'

Image caption, The McDermott brothers were deemed mentally unfit to stand trial

A report has confirmed that Court Service errors had no impact on the case of two brothers who returned to a Fermanagh village after being accused of a series of sexual offences.

However, it found a "significant gap" between the expectations of the community and the statutory agencies.

The justice minister ordered the probe after an outcry over the return of the McDermott brothers to Donagh.

David Ford said he accepted the system needed to be reviewed.

He asked for the report after some MLAs said the errors had enabled the brothers to return.

However, that was disputed by Mr Ford and the findings confirm that the mistakes had no impact.

The report, an examination of how the justice system deals with sex offence cases, was compiled by the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, Dr Michael Maguire.

'Significant gap'

It recommends that the department should undertake a feasibility study into the introduction of "community impact assessments" and report by next June.

James and Owen Roe McDermott were two of four brothers involved in what one judge described as a "tidal wave of abuse" in Donagh, stretching back over a 30-year period.

They were deemed mentally unfit to stand trial and returned to the village in June.

However, they subsequently voluntarily agreed to be admitted to a hospital for treatment.

John McDermott was jailed for nine years in June for his role in the abuse, which was described as frequent, regular and persistent.

Peter Paul McDermott took his own life during his trial on abuse charges involving two young boys.

'Cultural issues'

SDLP MLA and justice committee member, Conall McDevitt, said he wanted to see the community impact assessments introduced as an amendment to the justice bill currently going through the Assembly.

He added: "The report highlights serious cultural issues, particularly in the way the criminal justice system communicates with victims.

"There can be no doubt things could be done much better as the Donagh case so vividly illustrates."

Public Protection Arrangements in Northern Ireland, the umbrella body of statutory agencies involved with managing offenders, said it welcomed the report.

A spokesperson said it was totally committed to manage and reduce the risk from sex offenders.

More on this story

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.