Analysis: Clarification issue behind Adams non-prosecution
Decision linked to sex abuse of SF chief’s niece centres on meeting in Buncrana in 1987
Were it clear that Aine Adams had in 1987 alleged rape rather than the less specific term of sexual abuse, then under law Gerry Adams would have been obliged to report that information to the police. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
A significant element of the review by the North’s Attorney General John Larkin QC into the decision not to prosecute Gerry Adams for allegedly withholding information over the sexual abuse of his niece Aine concentrates on a meeting in Buncrana in Co Donegal in 1987.
That was when the Sinn Féin president was made aware of the abuse allegation against Aine Adams’s father, his own brother, Liam.
Aine Adams made her claims in a house in which her mother Sarah and Gerry Adams were present. What is at issue is how specific Aine Adams was about her abuse allegations.
Had she then said in front of Gerry Adams that she was raped by her father, the Sinn Féin president could have been charged with withholding information, according to Larkin’s report.
Larkin refers to this a number of times in his review - on one occasion stating how in 2006 Aine Adams told the PSNI that “her mother and Gerry Adams were present when she accused Liam Adams of ‘putting his thing in me’ ”.
“I consider that there was sufficient information regarding Gerry Adams’s state of knowledge to at least merit obtaining a further statement from Aine [Adams] concerning the issue of what she had told her uncle [Gerry Adams],” said Larkin.
But that didn’t happen. The Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) didn’t seek clarification on the matter as to the detail of Aine Adams’s allegation. This is the chief failing highlighted by Larkin in his report.
“There was certainly some evidence on the police file that indicated knowledge on the part of Gerry Adams that the abuse perpetrated against his niece amounted to rape or unlawful carnal knowledge, and yet no action was taken to clarify this issue,” he said.
Were it clear that Aine Adams had alleged rape rather than the less specific term of sexual abuse, then under law Gerry Adams would have been obliged to report that information to the police.
Larkin’s complaint was that insufficient action was taken to clarify this important point.
It could have been done, he said, by clarificatory statements being taken from Aine Adams and her mother and “if necessary by asking the police to interview Gerry Adams under caution”.
While making this point, Larkin also said it should be open to the PPS to make a public interest decision that in similar circumstances people who could offer evidence for the prosecution should be treated as witnesses rather than suspects.
The North’s Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC took no part in this review, apart from inviting Larkin to carry it out, as, prior to his appointment, he was Gerry Adams’s solicitor. Furthermore, he was not DPP when these decisions were being taken.
Deputy DPP Pamela Atchison acknowledged Larkin’s main criticism on Tuesday, but nonetheless said the PPS felt vindicated by the report in that the Attorney General also concluded that the key evidential and public interest tests for taking a case against Gerry Adams for withholding information were “not met”.
The deputy DPP contended that what was crucial in the case was having Gerry Adams as a prosecution witness, which happened in the first 2013 trial, which collapsed.
Gerry Adams, for “technical reasons” which the PPS is not disclosing, did not give evidence in the second trial, when Liam Adams was convicted and sentenced to 16 years imprisonment - a conviction that was upheld by the Court of Appeal last month.
Atchison also explained that the issue of clarification is now academic as Aine Adams has, since the conviction of her father, decided she has no further interest in pursuing such matters. “Clearly, her wish was to draw a line in the sand. Her focus was on Liam Adams,” said Atchison.
That is now the end of this matter, she added, and there is “insufficient evidence” to take any action against Gerry Adams on the alleged issue of withholding information. But neither Gerry Adams nor the North’s PPS will be out of the news for long.
Last year Gerry Adams was questioned by police for four days about the 1972 disappearance and murder of Jean McConville.
A file was sent to the PPS on whether further action should be taken. “That matter is still under consideration but a decision is expected in a number or weeks,” said a spokeswoman for the PPS.