Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Sex offender Thomas Ward fails in bid to overturn conviction for attacking jogger

Appeal failed: Thomas Ward
Appeal failed: Thomas Ward

A sex offender has failed in a bid to overturn his conviction for attacking a female jogger.

The Court of Appeal upheld both the guilty verdict returned against Thomas Ward and the indefinite prison sentence imposed on him.

Already on the Sex Offenders' Register for life, he was previously classed as a Category Three sex offender – the most serious, and flouted numerous orders placed on him by courts.

Ward (25), formerly of The Glen in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, was jailed for sexual assault inflicted on the middle-aged victim in February 2011.

She is believed to have been followed by a man in a grey hoodie for up to a mile after leaving her home to go jogging in Cookstown.

She managed to escape and took refuge in a friend's house before phoning the police.

CCTV images showed Ward in the area at the time.

In 2012 he was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to an indeterminate custodial sentence, with a minimum of two years behind bars.

Ward's appeal centred on issues around the details of a conviction for a previous sex attack being introduced at his trial. He had held a woman captive in his car on St Patrick's Day 2006 and tried to remove her underwear before she fought back and escaped.

Ward knocked his victim's teeth out as she tried to fight him off. The assault only ended after the woman wrapped her handbag around her fist and hit him with it before biting his fingers.

The trial judge admitted details of this case as bad character evidence.

Lawyers for Ward challenged the handling of this material. It was claimed that no explanation was given for why the evidence was being heard and its relevance to the 2011 assault.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, hearing the appeal with Lord Justices Higgins and Coghlin, accepted that the trial judge could have detailed all the similarities and dissimilarities between the earlier convictions and allegations before the jury.

But rejecting all grounds of challenge, he held: "In the context of this two-day trial where the issues, particularly relating to the similarities, were clear, we do not consider that the failure to do so rendered this conviction unsafe."

As Ward appeared via a prison video-link, he heard his appeal against sentence be dismissed as well.

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