Former Kincora Boys’ Home residents sue over claims paedophile housemaster was protected due to status as MI5 agent

A judge allowed appeals by Gary Hoy and Richard Kerr against a previous decision to partially dismiss their civil actions against the PSNI and Home Secretary

Two former residents of the Kincora Boys’ Home suing over allegations a paedophile housemaster was protected from prosecution because of his status as an MI5 agent have won a High Court battle to have their case reinstated.

A judge allowed appeals by Gary Hoy and Richard Kerr against a previous decision to partially dismiss their civil actions against the PSNI and Home Secretary.

The outcome followed claims that William McGrath was free to sexually abuse victims at the notorious home in east Belfast with immunity from investigation.

Lawyers for Mr Hoy and Mr Kerr argued that McGrath had been allowed to act like “a fox in a chicken coop”.


The two men are seeking damages for the ordeals they endured after being sent to Kincora during the 1970s.

Denying liability, the defendants dispute responsibility for any violation in the responsibility of care to those targeted at the children’s home which was finally demolished in 2022.

At the centre of their action is the role played by McGrath, who became known as the ‘Beast of Kincora’.

The senior member of staff was jailed in 1981 for abusing boys as part of a paedophile ring operated within the care facilities.

McGrath, who died in the early 1990s, also held a leading position in the far-right loyalist movement Tara.

Mr Hoy and Mr Kerr claim the authorities enabled him to target vulnerable young victims so that more information about the grouping could be obtained.

The alleged liability went as far as actively obstructing police officers from investigating and pursuing McGrath specifically due to his role as an MI5 agent, it was contended.

In August last year claims for negligence and misfeasance in public office within the wider lawsuits were struck out at a preliminary stage.

No basis was identified at that stage for potentially holding the Chief Constable or the Home Secretary liable for the housemaster’s activities.

Appealing the Master’s ruling, counsel for Mr Hoy insisted there is enough evidence to arguably show the RUC and security services knew McGrath was carrying out abuse at Kincora while actively running him as an agent.

In 1973 police were informed that a paedophile ring inside Kincora centred around McGrath exploiting victims sexually, politically and financially, the court heard.

The message was allegedly forwarded to an assistant chief constable, chief superintendent and high-ranking member of Special Branch without anything being done to investigate.

Patrick Lyttle KC, for Mr Hoy, submitted: “A clear reason why they wouldn’t intervene was because they were protecting McGrath.”

Despite McGrath’s subsequent convictions, the court heard he had been able to act with impunity for years.

Mr Lyttle argued that liability could be established on the basis of actions taken by the defendants.

“There clearly must be a duty if care if they are running an agent and that agent is involved in sexual abuse within a young person’s home,” he insisted.

“That’s like saying ‘we are putting the fox into the (chicken) coop… we are obtaining information from him and we are granting him immunity from investigation or prosecution’.”

Following submissions, Mr Justice Rooney agreed to reverse the previous strike-out order by consent.

With Mr Hoy and Mr Kerr’s actions fully reinstated, their solicitor pledged to seek full disclosure of all available documents on Kincora.

Sophie McClintock of Phoenix Law said after the hearing: “Our clients are victims of the most horrific sex abuse at Kincora, perpetrated by an agent of the state given cover to harm vulnerable young boys in care.

“They have campaigned for the truth and have suffered a lifetime of trauma.”