Ombudsman Criticises Police over Handling of Mairia Cahill Case

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), September 13, 2018 | Go to article overview

Ombudsman Criticises Police over Handling of Mairia Cahill Case


A Belfast woman who said she was raped by an alleged IRA man when she was teenager was "failed" by a disjointed PSNI investigation, the police ombudsman's office has said.

The ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, recommended that four officers be disciplined over shortcomings in how police handled Mairia Cahill's complaint.

His investigation also found that senior RUC officers had information about the alleged abuse 10 years earlier, but did not investigate it.

In 2010, Ms Cahill, who is a member of a prominent republican family, told police she had been sexually abused by alleged IRA man Martin Morris from 1997 to 1998, when she was just 16 years old. She also alleged that in subsequent years she was subjected to an IRA 'investigation' into her claims and was forced to confront her alleged attacker. Two other women also said they too had been abused as children by the same man.

The PSNI initiated investigations into both matters, which resulted in a number of people being prosecuted.

However, in 2014 the case against Mr Morris and those accused of involvement in the IRA investigation collapsed when Ms Cahill and the two other women withdrew their evidence, citing a loss of confidence in how the matter had been dealt with.

Mr Morris, who strenuously denied all the allegations against him, was also acquitted of being a member of the Provisional IRA.

In 2015, a review by Sir Keir Starmer found that the Public Prosecution Service had "let down" the women.

Ms Cahill, who is now an SDLP councillor, made a series of complaints to the Police Ombudsman's Office about the PSNI's handling of her report to them.

Having met Ms Cahill to discuss his findings, Dr Maguire said that while the PSNI investigation was "disjointed" and had failed the victims, he did not support the allegations that officers chose not to arrest some of the individuals concerned because they were police informants, or that the matter had been subject to political interference.

The ombudsman found that the PSNI had an "inconsistent approach" in its investigation of some of the people suspected of IRA membership, which in one case led to an individual not being arrested and questioned. He found no evidence, however, that anyone had been protected from prosecution.

Stating that he found no evidence that the PSNI probe became subject to political interference, Dr Maguire said: "There is no doubt that this case was among those which caused considerable discussion among republicans and their political representatives. Despite this, we have found no evidence of adverse political influence on the investigation. …

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