Belfast Telegraph

Co Armagh Scout leader jailed for sexually abusing boys

A former Scout leader from Co Armagh has been jailed for 11 years for sexually abusing five boys over a 16-year period.

Colin Finnegan, 44, began sexually abusing boys when he was a youngster himself but continued until November 1997, when he was in his late 20s.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC told him it was "chilling to note you still maintain your denials and consider yourself the victim".

The Belfast Crown Court judge said that this "stance has exacerbated the damage" caused to his four known victims, and it can only be hoped that "the jury verdicts go some way to helping them recover".

Last month, following a third trial, Finnegan, whose address is given as Sloan Hill Mews, Lurgan, a jury convicted him of a total of 59 sex offences. Two other trials in Newry had to be aborted earlier this year for legal reasons.

Judge Kerr said that the first date on the charges against him was in January 1982, when he himself would have been 12, and the last, when he would have been aged 28 - a 16-year period.

The first of his victims, the court heard, was unknown. But Finnegan went on and "preyed" on four other victims. Judge Kerr told Finnegan he had "repeatedly used them for your own sexual gratification".

He said: "You corrupted these four men when they were young and in each case robbed them of their innocence and childhood.

"You contested the charges and accused them of a conspiracy in colluding to give evidence against you," said Judge Kerr, who added that his sentences for abusing them while he was a youngster himself would be concurrent, but those for his adult offending would run consecutively.

Scout hall

The judge said that each of victims gave similar accounts, of first being "befriended by the defendant who was known to them as an older youth" connected to Bessbrook scout hall.

"Each victim," added Judge Kerr, "described being taken, on some pretext, to the hall and when there, the defendant started to touch them and persuaded them to touch him".

On other occasions Finnegan, who was also put on the Sex Offenders' Register for life, would take them out in a van, and later in a car.  Three of his victims also described being abused in fields close to where he lived.

Judge Kerr said that the offences had "seriously impacted" on the lives of Finnegan's victims, leaving them feeling vulnerable and anxious with deep rooted signs of trauma coupled, in some cases, with emotional and psychological problems.

Of the four victims who gave evidence against him, Finnegan was nearly five years older than his first victim, eight years older than his second and nearly 12 years older than his third, while he was six years older than his fourth victim - who he also plied with drink and drugs as an encouragement.

Judge Kerr said while there were "no significant mitigating features",  there were "clear aggravating features", including a clear case of targeting victims. Finnegan abused his position of trust, firstly as a senior scout, then as a scout leader. There were multiple victims, repeated acts of sexual assault, the youth of the victims and the increasing age disparity between them and Finnegan.

Finnegan was unanimously convicted of 54 charges, while in five other cases, the jury returned majority guilty verdicts of eleven to one. The charges, which involved one unnamed boy in January 1982, abused whilst camping at Gosford, included 37 indecent assaults on a male, 17 of gross indecency with or towards a child and five of buggery with a boy under 16.

Happy

Speaking outside court after Finnegan was jailed, one of his four victims said: "I am speechless but I am also happy that I can now get on with my life from today.

"I wish he could have got more, but that is the justice system that we have to deal with.

"He committed a number of those offences against us when we were children and he was a child and that was how the judge had to deal with some of those offences. But overall I am happy that he has been jailed for 11 years.''

Another of his victims spoke of the "ordeal'' of having to go through three trials in front of a jury.

He said: "We had to go through every detail of what happened to us in three trials and also three cross examinations, which was very difficult and traumatic.

"It has been a difficult year but I am relieved it is over and I can move on with my life.''

A third victim said: "It is farcical for him to claim that he has been a victim. He is still in denial at what he has done.''

The victims all praised the investigating police officer for bringing the case to court.

"She was the motivator for us. After the second trial we thought that the case was at an end and we didn't think there would be a third trial.

"But the police officer kept motivating us and we are very grateful for all that she has done for us.

"We hope that today's sentencing will encourage other victims of sexual abuse to come forward and make complaints.''

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