The following series of statements was issued through Madden & Finucane Solicitors in Belfast in response to a story by Suzanne Breen, carried on the front page of the 17 January issue of The Sunday Tribune, concerning two cases of abuse in Belfast.
Monday 18 January
Media Statement on behalf of the victim of abuse by person named “X” by the Sunday Tribune
“I feel very let down by the decision of the Sunday Tribune to publish my interview with Suzanne Breen on 17th January 2009. At no time did I give permission for any details of the sexual abuse I suffered as a child to be published. The editor of the Sunday Tribune gave me an assurance through my solicitors that I would not be identified as someone who has made allegations to the police regarding sexual abuse.
Due to the publication of the Sunday Tribune article I have been easily identified within my local community as being the victim of sexual abuse. I have suffered immense hurt, upset and distress as a result of the publication, and I feel that I have been manipulated by the newspaper. My legal protections of anonymity under the criminal law and my right to private life under the European Convention on Human Rights have been flagrantly breached. Neither my local community nor my family were aware that I was a victim of sexual abuse before the publication of the Sunday Tribune article.
My primary concerns are for the well being of my children and immediate family and that justice against my abuser is able to take its course without any interference”.
Monday 18 January
Statements of Padraic Wilson and Seamus Finucane in response to Sunday Tribune newspaper article of the 17/01/2010
Statement from Padraic Wilson
The Sunday Tribune in its edition of January 17th carried a series of articles concerning allegations of sexual abuse. Two women who were the victims outlined traumatic abuse to which they had been subjected. They should be commended for that.
On the front page and in an article on page 11 reference was made to myself in relation to one of the cases.
Quotes from the victim attributed to me are inaccurate. I did speak with the victim and another member of her family. At all times I emphasised that the only way that the situation could be dealt with was by bringing it directly to the attention of social services.
This was not a route that the victim or her family were, at that time, prepared to take. That very point is made by the victim herself in the Sunday Tribune. I had no dealings with the person alleged to be responsible for the abuse.
My only involvement was to try and give constructive advice in a very sensitive and traumatic situation. It was not within my gift to deliver the outcome demanded by the victim.
As no charges have been brought at this stage in relation to this case, I have been advised by my legal representative to make no further comment about this matter so as not to interfere with any potential future legal proceedings.
The Sunday Tribune also described me as the ‘go between’ with the International Independent Commission on Decommissioning (IICD). This is also inaccurate. I have never met or been involved with anyone from the IICD.
Statement from Seamus Finucane
I want to confirm that I did have a role to play in trying to resolve the complaint of sexual abuse made by Ms Cahill. This was a very sensitive issue and very traumatic for her. Ms Cahill did not wish to involve the RUC in the investigation of this complaint due to the fact that the alleged perpetrator’s partner was a relative of Ms. Cahill.
At that time our view was that complaints of this nature should be referred to the social services whose staff were expertly trained to deal with sexual abuse.
I am sorry that she felt that I was dismissive of her complaint but this was far from the case. I want to make it clear that I did my best to resolve this serious matter.
Wednesday 20 January
Press release by Michael Madden, Madden & Finucane solicitors re Sunday Tribune interview 17 January 2010 with victim of abuse by person named “X”.
Despite the assurances by the Sunday Tribune editor in her editorial of Sunday 17 January 2010 and her press release issued Tuesday 19 January 2010 that the newspaper respected my client’s decision not have her identity revealed, her identity was in fact revealed. The article of Sunday 17 January 2010 contained sufficient detail for my client to be easily identified within her community.
As my client stated to the media, she feels very let down that the Sunday Tribune published the article. I can see no journalistic merit of publishing various pieces of detail that are utterly superfluous to the story other than to provide sufficient pieces of a jigsaw to effectively reveal her identity to the public.
I first contacted the editor, Noirin Hegarty, to clarify that my client did not want to be identified as a victim of sexual abuse and to point out that complainants in sexual cases have a statutory right to anonymity and if the newspaper continued with its proposed publication our client’s statutory right would have been completely breached. I underscored to her that her newspaper is not permitted to publish any information if it is likely to lead members of the public to identify our client as the person against whom such offences are alleged to have been committed. The publication on 17 January therefore is clearly a breach of the criminal law.
I also emphasized to the editor that identification of my client in these circumstances infringes her right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and constitutes a manifest misuse of private information that would cause considerable hurt, upset, and distress.
Furthermore I highlighted that any reporting of the nature that was proposed could prejudice the prospects of a successful prosecution and that there is a public interest in prosecutions proceeding untrammeled to court and to conviction if the facts justify it. I asked the editor to consider the wider public interest and the damage that the article in the form as proposed would do.
Legal proceedings were due to take place at the High Court in Belfast on Saturday 16 January 2010 at 7.30pm, however at 6.50pm I received an unequivocal undertaking by email from the editor, that my client’s identity would not be revealed directly or inadvertently. The High Court application was withdrawn on the strength of this undertaking. It is clear that this undertaking was not complied with.