Belfast Telegraph

Father guilty of abuse was investigated 16 years ago

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

A police file on a paedophile father was sent to prosecutors 16 years ago but no action was taken, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Yesterday the man and his brother were convicted of a string of sex abuse offences against a boy and a girl in the 1990s.

The father was found guilty of 31 sex abuse offences against his son and daughter. Those included six counts of rape against his daughter.

His brother was convicted on seven charges of abusing the woman. Three of the charges were rape.

The woman told the jury how she was raped up to 1,000 times, with her father first assaulting her in the early 1990s.

Her uncle then joined in, with her father also said to have recorded the abuse on camera and made the girl watch it back.

But it can now be revealed that police investigated the father over allegations of sexual abuse against his own daughter 16 years ago and forwarded a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

But it was decided there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal proceedings.

Last night a member of Stormont's justice committee called for an urgent review into the handling of the case when the allegations first came to light.

The father and his brother – both from Londonderry – were yesterday convicted by a jury sitting at Coleraine Crown Court. A family friend was acquitted of eight charges he faced.

During the course of the trial the jury was shown a video interview with the daughter, recorded in 1998 when she was 13.

In it she told a social worker about abuse committed by her father, telling the authorities he used to get into her bed and had touched her inappropriately.

A PSNI spokesman yesterday said: "Police carried out a full investigation based on a complaint made in 1998 and a file was sent to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions."

No court proceedings were launched and it was not until 2012 when the siblings came forward again with more claims that a case was pursued. A spokeswoman for the DPP told the Belfast Telegraph: "We can confirm a file was received by the then Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

"After careful consideration of all the available evidence at that time a decision was taken not to prosecute as there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of convictions."

When the girl first confided in her mother – who was at the time estranged from her husband – she immediately banned any contact between her former partner and the child.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust yesterday declined to comment on the case.

Alliance MLA and justice committee member Stewart Dickson said the revelations were extremely worrying. "This case raises very important questions about when these incidents are first being made aware of," he said.

"While nobody is pointing the finger at this stage, clearly there is a range of people involved in child protection and the justice system and at the very least there now needs to be an urgent review of all of the actions taken in this case."

Following a three-week trial the jury yesterday convicted the men in relation to the years of physical and sexual abuse against the victims when they were aged just six and seven.

The jury had already heard the two brothers were convicted child abusers.

They pleaded guilty in another court to abusing their sister in the 1970s and 1980s, starting when she was just four and continuing until she was 19.

The men will be sentenced next month.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC requested pre-sentence reports and victim impact statements be presented ahead of sentencing.

He told the brothers he may give consideration to passing down indeterminate terms.

Such was the graphic nature of evidence given during the trial, jurors were told they could opt out of doing jury duty ever again.

I was crying, I asked them to stop but they just laughed at me... the children raped repeatedly by their father and an uncle

It should have been a safe haven for a young girl, a place of sanctuary. But, from the age of just six, her father's home became the scene of almost unimaginable barbarity at the hands of the man with whom she should have shared the ultimate bond.

Now a woman, the victim physically shook as she recalled the horrors of her childhood during the trial of her father and uncle.

Also in the courtroom was her brother who also fell victim to the predatory paedophiles.

The men stood motionless in the dock of Coleraine Court yesterday as the jury delivered 38 guilty verdicts, 31 of which related to the father.

Some relatives openly wept as they were read aloud, following the three-week trial in which the evidence given was so disturbing it reduced some members of the jury to tears.

They included an estimate by the woman that as a child she was raped approximately 1,000 times, the attacks beginning when she was just six.

She told the court how her father and uncle laughed as they took it in turns to rape her.

She said her father would videotape her being raped and make her watch the recordings.

The victim told in disturbing detail how she was sexually assaulted, beaten and had cigarettes stubbed out on her body while she was in primary school.

"They both took it in turns to rape me. I was crying, I asked them to stop but they laughed at me. They started doing it at the same time," she said.

Her parents were divorced so she did not live at the property with her father – the abuse would happen when she visited.

"I didn't sleep in my bedroom any more, I slept in his bedroom," she said.

She told the jury how her father would invite friends over to his house where they would drink, smoke, play cards and watch pornography.

On average groups of five or six men would be present – sometimes there would be as many as eight or nine individuals, the court heard.

"He would tell me to take my clothes off and sit in my corner," the woman said.

"They played cards and the person with the highest number got to go first... with me."

The victim broke down in tears as she described the acts she said she was forced to perform.

The abuse ended when she stopped having contact with her father.

The nature of the evidence took its toll on some of the jury, which consisted of six men and six women.

A prosecutor said on one occasion, when the girl was 10 years old, just before Christmas during a visit to her father's house, "he told her he had a Christmas present for her and told her to go to the bedroom and undress. He told her to get into bed. Then he got into bed and raped her. She remembers the pain and she screamed, but he said, 'you like it, you like it'. Then he called her a whore. He raped her again the next morning".

The court was told of another occasion when the children's uncle raped the girl in her father's home.

Both defendants also gave evidence during the trial. The father told jurors he was "numb" with shock when he first heard the allegations.

The uncle also dismissed the claims against him: "What I am saying is that I never done it, so there must be another explanation. I have never in my life touched that wee girl... I hardly knew her. I was never at parties in any house where children were abused."

Under cross-examination a prosecution lawyer put to him that on January 20 he pleaded guilty to a series of sex offences against his sister during the 1970s and 1980s, including 10 counts of indecent assault, one count of attempted rape and two counts of gross indecency – charges to which he originally pleaded not guilty.

The father said that when he first heard the allegations he could not believe it.

"I thought this would be cleared up in 10 minutes – I never even thought I would need a solicitor, so I didn't ask for one."

The woman told the court she finally built up the courage to tell her mother she was being abused in 1997, who then prevented her estranged husband having contact with the children.

Social services and police were informed and an investigation launched.

A file was sent to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1998 but it was decided there was insufficient evidence against the father.

In 2012 the brother and sister spoke out again about their nightmarish childhood.

The jury in the subsequent trial had already been told the accused were convicted child abusers, having targeted their own sister.

The men did not move when the verdicts were delivered yesterday, both standing with their arms folded in front of them as their victims sat just yards away.

A third man – their friend – wept as he was cleared of involvement in the abuse.

As they were led from the dock following the verdicts, the siblings hugged, the man smiling at his sister following their hellish 16-year fight for justice.

Legal restriction which means the abusers' identity can't be revealed

They have been convicted of the most grotesque sexual offences – but their names can never be made public.

The father and uncle of siblings were yesterday convicted of subjecting them to depraved sexual ordeals over many years.

Details of many of the vile assaults carried out are too disturbing to be reported. The media can usually identify defendants in sex cases provided reports do not identify victims.

When the case began last month the relationship between the victims and the defendants was broadcast.

As details of the case are already in the public domain, naming them now could lead to the identification of the victims.

Last month, a Londonderry judge imposed a court order directing the media not to name a child abuser.

He had no grounds to do so, and due to the error the sex offender's identity was not published until the victim waived her right to anonymity. The Belfast Telegraph previously successfully fought court restrictions placed on the naming of a convicted paedophile.

Lawyers for this newspaper successfully challenged three separate orders which prohibited the media naming former Ulster and Ireland rugby player David Tweed – a rare victory against a trend towards secret justice.

An order banning Tweed's identification was made at Coleraine Magistrates Court in January 2012, and again the following month at Antrim Crown Court.

When Tweed's case returned to Antrim Court in November of that year, the Telegraph's lawyers wrote to the trial judge asking him to reconsider the ban orders.

The judge set aside one order and varied the others to prevent identification of the complainants, but not the defendant.

Tweed could conceal his identity no longer and his trial went ahead in public.

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