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Belfast man jailed after 19 years of sexually abusing his partner's daughter and granddaughter

By Ashleigh McDonald

A Belfast pensioner who sexually abused two members of the same family for a period spanning almost two decades was jailed today for the "prolonged and persistent" offending.

Patrick Toal, formerly of Tollgate House in Bradbury Place, was found guilty by a jury earlier this year of 29 separate counts of sexually abusing his partner's daughter, and also her grand-daughter. The abuse of the two females spanned for a period of 19 years.

The 71-year old - who despite the convictions continues to maintain his innocence - was handed an extended 12 year sentence by Judge Stephen Fowler earlier today.

Telling the pensioner that he was being handed an extended sentence for the protection of the public, Judge Fowler told Toal that after he has served half his sentence, his release date will then be determined by the Paroles Commission.

In addition to the prison sentence, Toal will spend a further three years on licence when he is released from custody. He was also made the subject of an Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) for an indefinite period.

Passing sentence, Judge Fowler said that Toal's actions had left both of his victims suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Telling Belfast Crown Court that Toal preyed on the two when they were vulnerable young girls and that grooming was involved, the Judge highlighted the fact that Toal had displayed no insight into the significant harm he had caused to both women.

During the trial earlier this year, the jury heard Toal first targeted his partner's daughter in the family home when she was 12, before turning his attentions to his partner's granddaughter when she was aged seven.

She too was abused in the west Belfast home when she visited her grandmother, and also at a caravan in Newcastle during a family holiday.

Epileptic fit

The eldest victim and the 'de facto' step-daughter, who is now aged 35, was first targeted by Toal after she had an epileptic fit when out playing with friends. Following the fit, Toal brought a glass of vodka and 7Up to her bedroom then sexually abused her.

This abuse persisted throughout her childhood and into adulthood, as he continued to sexually assault and abuse her when she called to the family home to visit her mother.

Regarding Toal's other victim - who was his partner's grand-daughter and who is now aged 18 - he first abused her when she was seven.

He told the youngster that what he was doing to her was normal, that he loved her and that if she told anyone then he and her granny wouldn't be together any more and that she wouldn't be able to see him any more.

Toal's offending began in 1992 and only ended in 2013 when his two victims went to the police.

Judge Fowler said that it was clear both victims has suffered significantly as a result of Toal's offending. Describing this offending as being at the "upper end of the spectrum", Judge Fowler described the abuse as "repeated and evasive".


At at earlier court hearing, Defence barrister Charles McKay QC spoke of Toal's myriad of ill health which includes limited eyesight and shotgun injuries to his knee which present a risk of arthritis - the result of a paramilitary shooting in February 2013.

Pointing out that Toal appeared before the court as a man of 71 with no previous convictions, Mr McKay spoke of his client's "rigid denial" of the charges and acknowledged his lack of remorse and lack of victim empathy.

Mr McKay also told the court he accepted there was "little in the way of mitigation", and said his client was "a man who has offended in the eyes of the law and a man who must pay the penalty for that."

Judge Fowler acknowledged Toal's health issues and the fact he came before the court with a clear criminal record. However, he said that after the Probation Board had assessed the pensioner as presenting a significant risk to the public - a conclusion he said he agreed with - the Judge said the extended sentence was necessary to protect the public.

He told the court: "The culpability of the defendant is high and the harm to the victims is considerate."

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