Community policing will encourage victims of women’s institutions to come forward

Police have launched a community outreach program to talk to victims of women’s historical institutions.

Thousands of women and girls in Northern Ireland have spent time in mother and baby homes, Magdalen laundries and industrial schools over the past century.

Last year a major academic research report was published outlining the extent of abuse suffered in institutions, the last of which closed in the 1990s.

An investigation into the allegations of abuse is ongoing, while a public inquiry is expected to take place in the future.

PSNI neighborhood police officers briefed on investigation into allegations of abuse at former women’s institutions. (Rebecca Black/PA)

Police have so far received 57 reports, including from mothers who have never met their children

The PSNI has now tasked neighborhood officers to engage with community groups in the areas they work with to publicize the investigation.

Adele Johnstone, from Birth Mothers and their Children for Justice, urged others who have spent time in institutions to come forward and speak to police.

The Armagh woman was adopted from a mother and baby home, and also spent time at Marianvale Home in Newry as a teenager.

“I’m an adoptee, I’m also a birth mother, so I would like people to come forward and talk to the PSNI, and engage in the truth and recovery process as well,” she said.

“Many people have been shamed and stigmatized for years, and it has been done by institutions, by the government of the day, by social workers.

“It’s a heavy burden of shame and pain that these people carry, but coming out and talking about it, I hope it helps them, and if there’s a crime to be prosecuted, I’m 100 per cent behind it.

“For me personally, the criminal investigation is not a big deal for me, it’s more to bring peace and justice for what happened to us in the institutions.

“A lot of girls and women were very young girls, they were children, and it’s time this was addressed and made public.

“It’s haunted me all my life. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve lived a life of lies, I’ve lied all my life because I didn’t want people to know the truth about my origin, my adoption , my pregnancy, my child, and I lived with that all my life until the last few years when I got involved with birth mothers and their children for justice.

“I found it very cathartic – I found my voice and I really and sincerely hope that if I can help one person to come forward and get peace and justice, that’s all I want from life.”


Detective Superintendent Gary Reid leads a full-time institutional investigative team that is augmented with analysts and other specialist resources as needed.

“When we first launched our survey, we used the more traditional types of media, this is the next phase, trying to get into community groups for people who might not have access to their information through these particular mediums,” he said.

“It’s not for us to speculate why some haven’t come forward yet, there’s probably a lot of reasons for that, all I can say is when they do, we have a team of detectives specializing in this area and they will be treated with respect, dignity and sensitivity.

The Investigative Team dedicated to Mother and Baby Institutions, Work Homes and Magdalene Laundries can be emailed to

There is also a direct telephone number which operates Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on 028 9090 1728.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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