A suspended sentence handed to a paedophile deemed too fat to go to jail is to be reviewed by the Court of Appeal.
In December former church elder John William McConaghy, also known as Jack, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years behind bars for a litany of sex attacks on a young girl beginning when she was just 10 years old — but the jail term was suspended for three years as the judge ruled he was too ill to go to prison.
Judge David Smyth ordered the morbidly obese paedophile, from Urbal Road in Dervock, Co Antrim, to pay £10,000 after stating he was freeing McConaghy given the “wholly exceptional circumstances” surrounding his health.
The sentence sparked outrage, particularly as McConaghy maintained his innocence throughout his 10-day trial, forcing his victim to give evidence and relive the distressing details of the abuse she suffered for over eight years.
She described in court how over the years she had “a better than even chance of being touched on my boobs or a hand put up my skirt” by the former church elder.
The abuse ended when she was about 18 after she fought back on one occasion and scratched pervert McConaghy on the face.
In October wheelchair-bound McConaghy, who is believed to weigh in excess of 30 stones, was convicted of all but one of 21 charges of indecently assaulting the girl between May 1975 and May 1983. He was placed on the sex offenders' register for life.
Passing sentence in December, Judge Smyth said: “I am satisfied that your health, lack of mobility and the ulcerations of your legs, together with the need for frequent dressings, when considered with the likely extent of the arrangements that would have to be made to accommodate you in prison, constitutes wholly exception circumstances that permit me to suspend an otherwise essential custodial sentence.”
At the time Eileen Kelly, a spokeswoman from the Rape Crisis Centre, demanded that the sentence be referred to the Attorney General for review.
“I don't care whether they had to put this man in the hospital wing, he should have gone to prison,” she said.
The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland QC, has referred the case to the Court of Appeal for consideration after concluding the sentence may be unduly lenient.
A hearing is scheduled to take place at the Court of Appeal later this month.