All posts tagged HISTORICAL ABUSE

Historical Abuse Inquiry told paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth abused children in Belfast care homes

Published January 5, 2015 by misty534

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A Catholic religious order has accepted that a notorious paedophile priest abused children while they were in the care of nuns in Northern Ireland, a lawyer told a public inquiry.

Fr Brendan Smyth visited two south Belfast residential homes at the centre of the independent probe into wrongdoing stretching back decades. The serial molester was later convicted of dozens of child abuse charges.

More than 100 witnesses from Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge have come forward to the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry, headed by a former judge, which is one of the largest investigations of its kind ever held in the UK.

Senior counsel to the inquiry Christine Smith QC said: “Sexual abuse of children was perpetrated by the now notorious Fr Brendan Smyth.”

She added: “There will be evidence given in this module that he abused children both in Nazareth House and in Nazareth Lodge in Belfast.”

Sister Brenda McCall, a senior figure in the Sisters of Nazareth order which ran the now closed Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge in South Belfast, gave a statement to the inquiry.

Ms Smith said: “She states that the congregation accepts that Brendan Smyth did abuse children while they were in our care and continued to abuse some after they left our care.

“She also accepts that he visited both Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge.”


Some Catholic nuns at a children’s home in Northern Ireland were sadistic bullies, a former resident has claimed.

A “bleak, harsh and cruel” atmosphere was described by alleged victims at two properties in Belfast run by the Sisters of Nazareth Order, a lawyer told a public inquiry.

More than 100 witnesses from Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge have come forward to the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry, headed by a former judge.

Thirteen institutions are being considered by the inquiry panel, which is tasked with making recommendations to Stormont ministers on issues such as compensating alleged victims.

Senior counsel to the inquiry Christine Smith QC quoted one witness, saying: “The nuns were at best indifferent and most often sadistic bullies who spoke with harsh, loud voices in scornful, dismissive tones.”

Ms Smith said the picture was mixed – another child missed the nuns and said they made sacrifices for the youngsters.

But she added that paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth was active there.

“There will be evidence given in this module that he abused children both in Nazareth House and in Nazareth Lodge in Belfast.”

Ms Smith said 102 witnesses have come forward, and more than 90 are expected to give evidence.

The module surrounding Nazareth Lodge and Nazareth House will take more than 40 days, the single biggest in terms of the number of witnesses.

Homes runs by the Sisters in Derry and by the De La Salle order of religious brothers in Rubane House in Kircubbin, Co Down, have already been investigated and testimony taken from children sent by the institutions as migrants to Australia.

The inquiry was established to investigate child abuse in institutional homes in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period, up to 1995.

‘Bleak lovelessness’ at Care Homes

Catholic-run homes in Northern Ireland in the 1950s were centres of “bleak lovelessness”, an official at the time said.

Kathleen Forrest, a state health inspector, called for the system to be reformed after visiting the Belfast Nazareth House and Nazareth Lodge homes runs by the Sisters of Nazareth.

Counsel to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Christine Smith QC quoted from her 1953 report, saying: “I find these homes utterly depressing and it appals me to find that these children are being reared in bleak lovelessness.

“I think we must press for a complete overhaul of the whole set up of these homes and assist them in every way possible.”

Later she visited Nazareth Lodge and said babies were well cared for, clothed and fed but schoolchildren were not getting any chance in life, knowing nothing but understaffed institutional care from babyhood.

Children were sitting with bare legs and feet waiting to wash before supper, being hissed at by an older boy to stay quiet.

“What is needed here is institutional reorganisation so that these little children can have some individual love and care rather than being dragooned.”

Ms Smith also recounted the case of one 11-year-old child in 1927 from Nazareth Lodge who was found by police wandering barefoot around Belfast on a cold May morning with marks on his legs and claimed he had been beaten.

Police obtained a doctor’s certificate detailing his injuries but later medical reports could find no trace of the alleged ill-treatment. The nuns denied inflicting serious injury.

Pondering prosecution the senior officer said: “I have no doubt that the evidence of the sisters and reverend mother would be believed before that of the boy.”

Amnesty International warns hearing set to be “one of the darkest chapters”

Amnesty International warned that the latest hearing in the historic institutional abuse inquiry in Northern Ireland which got underway today will be one of the darkest chapters in the ongoing investigation.

The comments were made from the Banbridge Courthouse where the inquiry started hearings into allegations of abuse at the Nazareth Lodge and Nazareth House children’s homes, operated by the Sisters of Nazareth religious congregation.

Speaking from the Banbridge Courthouse in Belfast, Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

“It is clear from the opening statements of the counsel that this phase of the inquiry will be one of the darkest chapters.

“The inquiry will hear from over 100 witnesses of a litany of emotional, physical and sexual abuse suffered by children of all ages in both children’s homes.

“It has already been established that among the abusers was notorious serial paedophile Father Brendan Smyth, who was allowed to use both children’s homes as a personal playground for his depravity. It is clear that the abuse suffered by the children at these two Belfast homes represents a monumental failure by both religious and state institutions in Northern Ireland.

“We hope the inquiry will continue to give voice to the experiences of those who suffered as children in these homes.

“The process must deliver not only public acknowledgement of the suffering, but also justice and redress.”

Belfast Telegraph

Barriers to learning: Why social workers are struggling with child sexual abuse cases

Published November 27, 2014 by misty534


Social workers have criticised training and supervision on child sexual abuse. Community Care looks at the problems and solutions.

Challenging and distressing child sexual abuse cases have come under scrutiny from social workers who say they need better supervision to manage the emotional impact of working on such cases and access to more and higher quality training.

Practitioners from six local authorities shared their views with Coventry University, commissioned by the NSPCC to produce a report on social work responses to a subject coming under increasing public attention: child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Recent high profile cases and an ongoing historical abuse inquiry in Westminster have pushed the problem up the child protection agenda.

So, why have social workers now criticised their training and supervision, and how can their concerns be remedied quickly?

Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, believes issues in child protection are subject to “fashions and trends” in practice and claims that is exactly what has happened with child sexual abuse.

Pre-qualifying training

“Neglect and emotional abuse have been really key talking points for the past two or three years, so inevitably if local authorities believe that’s what they are going to be judged on…there will be a greater focus on those issues,” she says, also arguing that areas under the category of abuse appear to have a “hierarchy”.

Social workers speaking to the NSPCC called for more, and better, training both before and after qualifying to keep their skills and practice up to date. But, with practice ‘trends’ and authorities facing resourcing problems, Mansuri believes training is moved to the backburner.

Brigid Featherstone, a social work professor at the Open University, says training and the organisational cultures must work together. “I think you have to have the proper training and the organisational context [to support the work],” Featherstone says.

Producing specialist isn’t what qualifying is about, says Kate Morris, a professor in social work who at Nottingham University. “We’re equipping our qualifying students to go out and engage sensibly and seriously in continual professional development, you can’t produce specialists at qualifying level,” she says. “What you can do is ensure that they have a real solid awareness that they have the right set of capabilities and competencies and a real willingness to learn.”

Barriers to learning

The goal of qualifying courses is to produce “generic newly qualified social workers” with a grounding across a range of subjects, she says.

She puts specialist learning down to how embedded social work services are in their communities. “Know your community and the issues your community faces and that means you’ve got to have arrangements and systems that make that possible,” she says.

The sensitive nature of child sexual abuse cases, and working directly with service users, can make it difficult for social work students to gain the relevant experience they need.

Ricki Steed, a social work student on the Step Up To Social Work programme, explains: “It’s quite hard to get the shadowing opportunities because it is personal and people don’t want a lot of people around… That’s kind of a barrier to your learning.”

The NSPCC report raised concerns that social work training is too procedural. Steed noticed this in her practice placement, adding this can limit the help practitioners can offer children.

Featherstone acknowledged this too, saying the child protection system has been procedure-driven, but is “slowly developing”.

Space for reflection

Sherry Malik, director of children’s services for the NSPCC and a former director of adults and children’s services at Hounslow council, said it’s important to make sure social workers coming out of education are fit for purpose and properly equipped to do the tasks.

That, Malik says, is “about leaders, directors, assistant directors and managers creating the conditions where people can reflect”.

Key issues for social workers interviewed in the report include: the quality of post-qualifying training; how pressures and caseloads are limiting their opportunities for reflection and how to maintain their own emotional wellbeing.

The student world, argues Mansuri, is limited in terms of having direct influence on cases, but is vital for providing students with the foundation of knowledge for working with these cases. “It’s so important that when social workers are first coming face-to-face with it that they are getting really good support and supervision so they can talk about their own feelings,” she says.

Organisations must ask how they can improve the experiences of social workers and how they can create the right conditions to work in, says Malik. “The whole reason for doing that of course is to be able to support young people who haven’t been listened to.”

Emotional support and early help

David Jones, chair of the independent association of Local Safeguarding Children Board chairs, points out emotional support is “fundamental” to social work practice in all areas. Some services don’t understand this, he says, causing long-term problems with levels of staff morale.

While Mansuri welcomes the recent focus on responding to child sexual abuse, she warns of the “trend” habit in child protection developing and becoming another barrier to learning and practice. Trending issues could also deflect attention from other key areas, she says.

Jones agrees the issue is “very important”, yet warns of getting the child protection focus “out of balance”. Which is a problem that develops from social work being “more at the sharp end” of child protection, according to Mansuri.

If social workers had the freedom to intervene early and give children and families early help, they would be able to identify, and respond to, child sexual abuse in a more constructive way, she concludes.