Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 12:49 UK

No prosecutions over Omagh fire

McElhill family home

There will be no prosecutions after a house fire which killed a family of seven, it has emerged.

Arthur McElhill, Lorraine McGovern and their five children died in the blaze in Omagh, County Tyrone, in November 2007.

Mr McElhill, a registered sex offender, was suspected of starting the fire.

"No prosecution will be taken in relation to the fatal deaths at 4 Lammy Crescent," said a Public Prosecution Service spokeswoman on Friday.

Inquests into the deaths are to be carried out later this year.

An independent report by Henry Toner QC criticised how information was communicated within the Western Health and Social Care Trust and other agencies and the assessment of potential risks posed by Arthur McElhill to teenage girls.

McElhill family
The family-of-seven died in the fire

Police told social workers Mr McElhill had convictions for sexually assaulting teenage girls, even though the information was in their own files, had anyone looked it up.

Social services then removed a teenage child from the house - a friend of the eldest daughter Caroline, who had been staying with the family.

Subsequent meetings between social workers about the teenage child were not told of Arthur McElhill's offences, and the risk to the other children still living in the house was not assessed.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: "This report has some 63 recommendations aimed at all agencies involved in supporting and protecting children and families.

"While the report concludes there is no evidence that anyone working with the family could have known the fire would happen, there is absolutely no doubt that there were failings on the part of health and social services."

The minister said all the recommendations would be implemented and that child protections services across Northern Ireland would also be inspected.

'Little comfort'

A report by MASRAM, which monitors sex offenders, said it would be wrong to conclude there were "material deficiencies in inter-agency co-operation in relation to McElhill".

It said that it had to be borne in mind that McElhill did not commit any further sexual offences after 1996 when he was subject to inter-agency management, noting that this is of little comfort given the tragic deaths of the family.

The report said the PSNI had properly discharged its duties in monitoring McElhill.



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