Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Man get 12 years in jail for his depraved abuse of homeless teenager that included dipping her head into cooking oil before raping her

One of the worst sexual offenders Northern Ireland has seen remains anonymous

Helena Bracken from the Nexus Institute: I feel there are grounds for a tougher sentence
Helena Bracken from the Nexus Institute: I feel there are grounds for a tougher sentence

The head of a Northern Ireland sexual abuse counselling service wants a review of the sentence handed down to a man found guilty of "a depraved and humiliating period of sexual and physical abuse" on a homeless girl.

The 44-year-old from Co Londonderry, who cannot be named because of the risk of identifying his victim, subjected the young woman to three years of gratuitous sexual violence which included dipping her head into cooking oil before raping her.

Her abuse began when she was just 15 years of age and ended in 2009 only when she managed to escape, following an overdose which nearly proved fatal.

During those three years the abuser had her completely under his control and living in terror of him.

Included in the 19 charges against him were that he stubbed cigarettes out on her body, ripped her earrings out, tearing her ear lobes, and threw her out of the house when she was naked. He also violently sexually assaulted her.

Helena Bracken of Nexus compared the 12-year sentence Judge Philip Babington imposed in this case to the 35-year jail term given in December to Lost Prophets singer Ian Watkins.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Ms Bracken said: "I do think there is justification for a review of the sentence handed down in this case when you read the extent of the suffering this girl endured.

"The law in Northern Ireland came into line with the rest of the UK in 2008 and the depravity that warranted a 35-year sentence in the case of Ian Watkins is certainly comparable to what the poor girl in this particular case had to endure.

"I understand the judge imposed a number of conditions along with the 12-year jail term, but I feel there are grounds for a tougher sentence.

"The graphic details of this case, although they were so difficult to read, do demonstrate just what sexual abuse translates to.

"Sometimes those two words 'sexual abuse' do not always cover the reality and nature of what a victim goes through.

"This girl will need long-term intensive counselling and I do hope she comes to us as soon as possible.

"Trust will be the single biggest issue for her and she needs to know that everything that happened to her, none of it was her fault.

"The severity of the violence and the sheer depravity made my stomach churn when I read it and I felt not just horrified, but shamed that a young girl of 15, who was in the care system, was so dreadfully let down by the whole of society.

"The gaps that exist in the system, whether that is children in a family home or in care, that allow these animals to access vulnerable children must be filled as a matter of urgency."

Foyle MLA and chair of Stormont's health committee Maeve McLaughlin said the case strengthened her argument that an inquiry into child exploitation in Northern Ireland should have stronger powers.

She explained: "An inquiry that cannot compel witnesses nor demand reports and has no statutory basis is not going to address any failings in the system.

"The protection of vulnerable children in the here and now must be at the forefront of any process.

"The Children's Order is nearly 20 years old and I feel there is cause to look at that again to determine if it is sufficient to deal with a society that has changed so much over those 20 years.

"The public must have confidence that if failings in the system are identified then action will be taken."

BACKGROUND

The abuser of the young woman cannot be named after a judge mistakenly ordered that he not be identified to protect the victim.

The usual protocol is that defendants in sex cases are named by the media as long as it publishes the information in such a way that victims are not identified.

The Northern Ireland Courts Service has now admitted that the order not to name the man was invalid.

However, he cannot now be named as details already published could lead to the identification of his victim. The mistake in this case means that one of the worst sexual offenders Northern Ireland has seen remains anonymous.

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