Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 28 February 2015

Sex abuser ‘too fat for jail’ finally put behind bars

Jack William McConaghy
Jack William McConaghy, of Urbal Road in Dervock, today was jailed for 30 months and fined £10.000, at Antrim Crown Court after being found guilty of 20 charges of indecdent assault on a child. The jail term was suspended, and he had to sigh the sex register. McConaghy was an elder at Balllcastle Gospel Hall.PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

A morbidly obese church elder who subjected a child to years of sexual abuse has been ordered to serve 12 months in jail.

The Court of Appeal imposed the prison term on John William McConaghy (67) after ruling the original two-and-a-half year suspended sentence was too lenient.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: “There was a campaign in relation to this victim, waged over a long period of time when she was a young child, and she had to endure giving evidence.”

McConaghy, also known as Jack, was convicted of 20 counts of indecent assault on the girl over an eight year period during the 1970s and 1980s.

The former church leader, from Urbal Road, Dervock, Co Antrim was found guilty last year, but the trial judge decided against immediate custody due to his “precarious” state of health.

His obesity, diabetes, ulcerated legs and MRSA infection were held to be exceptional circumstances.

Lawyers for the Attorney General challenged the sentence — which also included a £10,000 fine — by arguing it was wrong to suspend the jail term.

Gerry Simpson QC set out four aggravating factors: the age of the victim; the length of time she was abused over; McConaghy's position of trust; and the fact he contested the case at trial.

The court heard how the victim was preyed upon after her parents became friendly with McConaghy.

Mr Simpson detailed her evidence of being abused during trips in his car and at her home when no-one else was around. At times the assaults were almost daily.

The offending ended when she was 18 and struck back on one occasion by scratching his face with her nails.

Alan Kane QC, for McConaghy, urged the court not to interfere with the original sentence imposed on his client.

He said: “He receives medical attention, but really over and above that he is essentially stuck to his own home and he spends 21 hours a day in a chair.”

But after prison authorities confirmed they could cope with McConaghy's needs, the three-judge panel ruled the abuse merited a period of immediate custody.

It was decided that McConaghy's two-and-a-half year suspended term should be changed to a total of 12 months behind bars, to start on March 15.

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