Former health minister calls for prosecutions in neglect cases

Dunmurry Manor Care Home was severely criticised in the report by the Commissioner for Older People
Dunmurry Manor Care Home was severely criticised in the report by the Commissioner for Older People

A former health minister has said he would like to see criminal prosecutions brought against anyone found to have wilfully neglected vulnerable older people at Dunmurry Manor care home.

Edwin Poots was reacting to a damning report into standards of care at the facility on the outskirts of Belfast, which uncovered what the Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, described as “a horrific catalogue of inhuman and degrading treatment” and “residents suffering harm through physical and sexual assaults”.

The commissioner’s investigation into standards at the care home was sparked by complaints from residents’ families and whistleblowers back in 2016.

The ‘Home Truths’ report, published on Wednesday, criticised the owners of the facility, Runwood Homes, and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) for failing to uncover the extent of the problems at the home.

“The commissioner has made serious allegations and it might be more meaningful if he reported those concerns to the police,” Mr Poots said.

“It’s not enough just to produce this damning report and leave it at that, I think the commissioner should be engaging with the police.

“If people are actually engaging in neglect which is leading to this sort of circumstance then I would like to see prosecutions.

“We have laws in this country that if you neglect an animal you’ll be prosecuted, so if you neglect a vulnerable person of course you should be prosecuted.”

The DUP MLA also criticised the RQIA for its handling of the Dunmurry Manor case, saying “board members must hold the directors of RQIA to account.”

His party colleague, Councillor Jonathan Craig, who represents the Dunmurry area, said he has raised the allegations made in the ‘Home Truths’ report with the PSNI’s district police commander.

“If anybody, including staff or management, has committed a criminal offence here then they should be prosecuted under the law,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Older People’s Commissioner’s office said the investigation report has been handed over the Chief Constable of the PSNI.

“The PSNI was an ‘Interested Party’ in the Commissioner’s investigation which means that it was notified at the outset and kept informed of status and progress of the investigation,” she said.

“Any safeguarding incidents reported by witnesses to the investigation were reported to the relevant Trust in accordance with the Joint Protocol (from the NI Adult Safeguarding Policy 2015). Both relatives and Trust representatives provided evidence of reporting concerns to the PSNI when incidents had occurred.”

The PSNI confirmed that officers have previously investigated reports relating to the welfare of residents at the facility, but added that “there is currently no ongoing police investigation into matters at the care home.”