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Belfast caretaker wins appeal over sex assault against teen girl

By Alan Erwin

Published 06/07/2016

Senior Belfast judges said complaints against David McFerran lacked independence.
Senior Belfast judges said complaints against David McFerran lacked independence.

A former primary school caretaker jailed for indecent assaults on a teenage girl has won his appeal against conviction.

Senior judges in Belfast quashed the guilty verdict against David McFerran because the jury was not warned that complaint evidence against him lacked independence.

However, they dismissed a separate bid by his father, Harry, to overturn convictions for sexually abusing two young brothers over a 10-year period.

In May 2014 David McFerran was handed a 12-month sentence and banned from working with children after a jury found him guilty of five charges. The 34-year-old, from Orangefield Road in Belfast, had allegedly carried out indecent assaults on the girl twice between 1999 and 2002 when she was aged 13-16.

It was claimed the first incident happened at a location in the city when she agreed to go for a drive with him.

According to the prosecution case he grabbed her leg and kissed her, then put his hand down her bra at another car park.

She also alleged that months later he called her into a garage where he was working and subjected her to another indecent assault.

The Court of Appeal heard how the prosecution relied on witnesses who recalled what the complainant told them had happened during the two alleged incidents.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan pointed out that the trial judge had not advised jurors their accounts were not independent.

"In the light of the absence of any direction in relation to the lack of independence of the complaint evidence in the circumstances of this

case there is a doubt about the safety of the conviction," he said.

Quashing David McFerran's conviction, Sir Declan confirmed no retrial would be ordered because the sentence imposed has. now been served.

Harry McFerran was also appealing against being convicted of a catalogue of historical abuse for which he received a 16-year prison sentence in May 2014.

His offences included multiple indecent assaults and gross indecency, buggery, incitement to commit gross indecency and taking an indecent photograph.

The 70-year-old, formerly of Orangefield Parade in Belfast, was said to have targeted the two brothers on dates stretching back more than four decades.

Most of the attacks were carried out on the older victim, starting when he was aged as young as four, according to the prosecution.

Defence lawyers based their challenge on issues about how the trial judge directed the jury on evidence in the case.

But rejecting Harry McFerran's application for leave to appeal, Sir Declan ruled: "We do not consider that any of the matters raised give  rise to any concern about the safety of this conviction."

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