Belfast Telegraph

Antrim rapist was freed to strike again

Offender attacked woman aged 74 two days after release from prison

By John Mulgrew

A Co Antrim man has pleaded guilty to raping an elderly woman just two days after being released from prison for breaching a Sexual Offences Order for a previous rape conviction.

Ballymena Crown Court heard that Barry Johnston (26), from the town, had preyed on the 74-year-old woman, who begged for mercy as the attack was being carried out.

The victim said she remembered saying to Johnston: “Dear, have mercy on me, sure I am an old woman.”

He carried out the rape in August 2010, and had previously been convicted of rape in 2005, before being released in February 2010.

A short time later he breached a Sexual Offences Order and was returned to custody. He was released only two days prior to the attack on the 74-year-old.

The court heard Johnston had “banged” on the elderly woman’s door in the early hours of August 14, 2010. He then got into the house wielding a knife and grabbed the victim’s arms before ordering her to go upstairs.

Johnston told her not to report the attack to police, but after she confided in a neighbour they were alerted and he was arrested based on DNA evidence.

The court was told how the victim was “at risk of suffering from clinical depression” and was “unlikely to get back to the person she was”. Johnston will be sentenced next month.

Helena Bracken from sex abuse charity the Nexus Institute said once Johnston had broken his Sexual Offences Order “bells should have started ringing”.

She said: “We’re concerned that he shouldn't have been released.

“This incident has dented public confidence in the whole management of sex offenders.

“The police are normally on the ball — but it’s not foolproof, as we can see here.”

She said such incidents made it more difficult for victims of rape to come forward and report their crimes.

The shocking revelations in court come following the rape of a 23-year-old woman in Newry at the weekend. The attack happened at around 1.30am on Sunday after she accepted a lift from two men in a car at Sugar Island.

Two men were arrested and have since been released on bail pending further inquiries.

Ms Bracken called on the public to be especially careful during the Christmas period and to “take care of yourselves and take care of everyone else”.

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