Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Sex offender found guilty of attack on female jogger

A man described in court as a dangerous sex offender has been convicted of a daylight attack on a woman as she jogged through Cookstown.

Thomas Christopher Charles Ward (23), of The Glen, Coalisland, stood trial in Dungannon Crown Court for sexually assaulting the woman as she was jogging on February 1 last year.

The jury of seven men and five women took just one hour to return a guilty verdict. The victim gave evidence on the first day of the hearing from behind a screen to prevent Ward making eye contact with her.

The prosecution sought and received an order permitting Ward's previous conviction to be disclosed to the jury. Prosecuting Counsel Simon Reid described Ward as having "a propensity for sexually assaulting females" and pointed out that the previous offence had been admitted and not challenged at court.

Currently classed as a category three sex offender, Ward previously served a prison term for brutally attacking a woman on St Patrick's Day 2006.

During that incident he trapped the victim in his car. He then climbed on top of the woman and tried to rip off her trousers and underwear and when she screamed he forced his fingers into her mouth.

The woman was left extremely shocked and suffered cuts and bruises and had a number of teeth broken. However, she had bitten Ward's fingers during the attack and his blood was found on her shirt. DNA tests revealed a match to Ward.

He admitted sexual assault, false imprisonment and assault causing actual bodily harm and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Following his release Ward was given a sexual offences prevention order, but was later controversially permitted to return to his home area of Coalisland.

In the most recent case Ward denied sexually assaulting the woman - who was the same age as his previous victim - and similarities were noted around his method of targeting.

CCTV evidence had been seized, and when this was shown to Ward he accepted he was seen walking behind the woman and speeding up to match her pace when she began to feel concerned. The actual assault was not captured on CCTV.

Judge David McFarland told the court he will be considering whether or not to impose an indeterminate tariff. He ordered pre-sentence reports and Ward was remanded in continuing custody to reappear on February 16.

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