The then Northern Ireland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People Nigel Williams approved an investigation into the alleged abuse of some of Brindley House’s children but the report has never been made public, The Impartial Reporter can reveal.

It’s understood the investigation in February 2006 followed an official complaint to the commissioner’s office in 2005 after staff grew dissatisfied with the response of the then Western Health and Social Services Board (WHSSB) in allegations that children were being abused in properties around Fermanagh by a group of men.

“No, the response was not satisfactory,” said one former employee.

“Sperrin Lakeland Trust did everything they could within the legislation. But the overarching responsibility was with the Western Board [now known as the Health and Social Care Board]. Do I think they failed the children? Yes I do."

The Impartial Reporter understands the allegations were “independently investigated” by the children’s commissioner who appointed independent investigators.

A former employee of Brindley House has told this newspaper: “The children’s commissioner reported it to then then chief inspector for social services. The outcome was that it was to be independently investigated and all of those young people were to be interviewed.

“The outcome didn’t come for two to three years but it was a closed report. The findings have never been revealed and that concerns me.

“Yes, we know some good came out of the investigation; the care units were done away, new legislation came in in relation to how text messages to young people could be used as evidence and social care staff can now give evidence on behalf of children.

“But we still don’t know what was in the report and we need to know,” said the former employee.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Departmental records indicate that allegations relating to Brindley House were brought to the Department’s attention by the NI Children’s Commissioner in March 2005.

"The Department sought a response from the Western Board and was subsequently advised by the Board that there had been shortcomings in the operation of Trust child protection procedures, including a failure to notify the Western Board and Department.

"An inspection of child protection services was initiated by the Department in early 2006. The inspection was conducted by the Social Services Inspectorate and was undertaken in 5 [then] HSS Trusts. As indicated in the inspection overview report, Our Children and Young People – Our Shared Responsibility, published in December 2006, an inspection of the interface between residential and fieldwork childcare services was conducted in both the Sperrin Lakeland and Foyle HSS Trusts due to issues identified within theirchildren’s residential care provision. 

"Also, as acknowledged in the overview report, the Department continued to work with those Trusts where inspections took place to ensure that actions identified to address recommendations were robust and applied with appropriate urgency to address improvements. Individual inspection reports and associated action plans were also published."

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "In December 2006 The Social Services Inspectorate published a report ‘Our Children and Young People – Our Shared Responsibility’, which made three recommendations for the PSNI to improve public protection arrangements in each district to ensure the rights of children and vulnerable people are protected.  Those three recommendations were implemented.

As a result of a review carried out by police and Social Services following the publication of this report, at the beginning of 2007 Detectives from Crime Operations launched a criminal investigation into the allegations of organised child abuse at the former Brindley House children’s home in Fermanagh between 2000 and 2005. 

In 2008 a number of properties were searched and 11 people were arrested  in counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh and interviewed for child abuse offences, as part of a long and protracted investigation. A comprehensive file was prepared and submitted to the PPS. The PPS directed no prosecution after concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.  

If anyone has a complaint about the actions of police during this investigation they can contact the Office of the Police Ombudsman for an impartial investigation of the matter.

We would encourage anyone who has been the victim of any sexual or physical abuse, whether recently or in the past, to speak with our specially trained Detectives in our Public Protection Branch or to one of partner organisations specially trained to support victims. Please contact the police service on 101 or through our dedicated email address at where you will be put in contact with a specially trained officer."

NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma said:

“In 2005, the office of the Children’s Commissioner became aware of potential breaches in child protection procedures at Brindley House residential home where it was alleged children were being put at risk. These were raised with the relevant authorities and as required by law, rather than open his own inquiry, the then Commissioner, was assured by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety that they would take the appropriate action. 

"A review of child protection arrangements in the relevant Trust was subsequently published by The Social Services Inspectorate in December 2006 and following a review, police opened a criminal investigation.”