PSNI acted correctly in not prosecuting Gerry Adams

North’s Police Ombudsman finds PSNI was not influenced by political considerations

The North's Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire has found that the PSNI acted properly and was not influenced by political considerations in its decision not to prosecute Gerry Adams for allegedly withholding information about sexual abuse within his family.

Dr Maguire's report follows a similar finding last month by the North's Attorney General John Larkin, QC, who ruled that the North's Public Prosecution Service acted correctly in not prosecuting Gerry Adams for withholding information.

The Sinn Féin leader welcomed Dr Maguire’s report which he said reaffirmed that “I committed no offence”.

“Now that these matters have been investigated my family should be afforded the same privacy as any other family,” he said.


In October 2013, following a collapsed trial earlier that year, Gerry Adams’s brother Liam Adams was found guilty of 10 charges of sexually abusing his daughter Aine: three counts of rape, three of gross indecency and four of indecent assault.

The offences occurred between 1977 and 1983, when Liam Adams was aged between 22 and 26 and Ms Adams was aged between four and nine.

Dr Maguire’s Office started an investigation after it received a complaint that the police had failed to fully investigate Gerry Adams for withholding information about the sexual abuse and alleged that a recommendation not to prosecute him was politically motivated.

His investigators established that Gerry Adams provided a statement to police detailing that he had been made aware by his niece and her mother that his brother had been sexually abusing his daughter.

The investigators confirmed that Mr Adams later provided a further statement to police which said that during a meeting with his brother a number of years previously, Liam Adams had admitted that he sexually assaulted his daughter.

“It is clear that Mr Adams did not report either conversation immediately to the police. It is also clear that at one stage police considered whether or not this delay could be regarded as ‘withholding information’,” said Dr Maguire.

He added that police were “alive to the issue of potential criminality” regarding the offence of withholding information.

But he said that senior officers assessed the potential for criminality against the relevant law and advised that there was insufficient evidence to support any prosecution.

Dr Maguire said that a detective chief inspector raised the matter with the PPS and identified the salient points at issue, “as well as the dangerous precedent which could be set in prosecuting a family member in such circumstances where their evidence supports the prosecution case”.

The police were advised that given the precise nature of the information Mr Adams had been given the act of not immediately passing it on to police did not meet the legal definition of ‘withholding information’.

“The documentation we have examined shows that the police recommendation not to prosecute Mr Adams followed from an appropriate interpretation of the law as well as some concern over the precedent which such a prosecution could set,” added Dr Maguire.

The Police Ombudsman said the officers “were cognisant of how important it is for relatives to come forward with information which may assist in the prosecution of such allegations of historic sexual abuse”.

Mr Adams in welcoming the report said it was important that the authorities create an atmosphere in which witnesses will come forward.

“There has been a distinct lack of sensitivity and compassion by some within sections of the media and of politics in how they have dealt with this case,” he added.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times