Seven people are to be prosecuted for alleged mistreatment of patients at a Northern Ireland hospital for adults with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs.
It is understood the seven facing charges are staff members at Muckamore Abbey Hospital’s psychiatric intensive care unit.
The charges announced by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) include alleged ill-treatment and wilful neglect of patients contrary to the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986.
The announcement comes after a lengthy police investigation into claims of patient abuse at the Co Antrim facility, which is operated by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
The seven accused were reported to prosecutors in April 2020.
It is understood a second evidence file submitted to the PPS by police in December last year relating to a further eight suspects remains under consideration.
Muckamore Abbey is situated on the outskirts of Antrim town.
PPS Assistant Director Martin Hardy said: “The PPS has taken a decision to prosecute seven individuals in relation to alleged ill-treatment of patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.
“This decision follows a thorough consideration of all the evidence in an investigation file received from police in April 2020.
“The seven individuals are being prosecuted for a range of offences including the alleged ill-treatment and wilful neglect of patients contrary to the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986.
“We have written to the families of the affected patients this morning to inform them of the decisions.
“A second investigation file received from police in December 2020 in relation to alleged ill-treatment at the hospital remains under active consideration. Decisions will issue in due course after a thorough consideration of all the available evidence.
“We acknowledge how difficult this process has been for the patients and their families, and we recognise the great dignity that they have shown. We will continue to engage with them and ensure they are kept informed as the process continues.
“As proceedings will soon commence as regards the seven individuals, it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”
Head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Public Protection Branch, Detective Chief Superintendent Anthony McNally, said the PPS decision represented “significant progress” in a “very detailed and complex” investigation.
“Our specially trained officers will continue to provide support to the families whose loved ones are at the centre of this investigation,” he said.
“From the outset we have been committed to working closely with them, with the aim of keeping them as informed as much as we possibly can and we will continue to do so.
“The protection of our most vulnerable is a priority for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”