THE police force in Northern Ireland has received just 29 allegations of historic criminal behaviour at mother and baby homes across the state, it has been revealed.
That figure concerns reports made since October 2021, when the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) launched an investigation into abuse at mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries.
It follows the publication of a major academic report in 2021 which outlined the scale of mistreatment endured by thousands of women and girls while in religious and state-run institutions in the North.
The research confirmed that more than 14,000 girls and women went through mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and other institutions in the North between 1922 and 1990.
This week the PSNI confirmed that so far they have only received 29 reports of criminality related to these institutions.
“The  reports are from a number of people who were adopted from different named institutions and also from some who either worked there or were residents within these institutions,” they explained.
“All those who have come forward have been spoken to by a specialist detective from the Historic Child Abuse Unit within the Public Protection Branch and have been offered the opportunity to have their account recorded so that a criminal investigation can take place.”
PSNI detectives are now working with the Truth Recover NI and Birth Mothers and their Children for Justice NI organisations to encourage more victims and witnesses to come forward.
Maria Cogley, from the Truth Recovery Group, said: “Establishing potential criminality is imperative, either during individuals’ confinement in one or more of the many types of NI institutions or as babies, now adults, born from an institution in Northern Ireland and subsequently adopted through coercive methods, fostered or boarded out or sent to institutions specifically for children.”
She added: “Truth Recovery NI is actively encouraging Survivors to contact the Investigative Team.”
Adele Johnston, from Birth Mothers and their Children for Justice NI, reiterated that call.
“This is a safe and confidential place to come forward, get information and support,” she said this week.
The PSNI added: “Officers are pleased that people are having the confidence after all these years to come forward, however, they believe there are still people out there who have suffered and not yet reported to the Police, including those who may no longer live in Northern Ireland.”
SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin has also encouraged victims of mother and baby institutions to report their experiences to the police.
“Given what we know about what went at mother and baby institutions for decades it’s clear that there would be many more incidents than those that have been reported so far,” she said.
“We must do everything in our power to ensure that victims around the world know that this investigation is ongoing and those who want to come forward feel comfortable and supported to share their story.
“It’s important that we support every effort possible to ensure justice for those who suffered so greatly and to hold those responsible to account.”
To reach victims who have since moved out of the North, social media advertisements have been set up by the PSNI to geographically target Northern Irish expats living in Great Britain, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
To contact the PSNI’s dedicated Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries Investigative Team, email [email protected] or call 02890 901728 in office hours or 101 outside of office hours, where a PSNI call handler who will pass on details to the dedicated investigation team to make direct contact.