Belfast Telegraph

Folk musician Francis McPeake to face sex abuse trial

BY ALAN ERWIN

Well-known folk musician Francis McPeake III is to stand trial accused of a catalogue of child sex abuse on both sides of the border.

The 71-year-old Belfast man can be named after his lawyers confirmed they were not challenging a decision to lift reporting restrictions.

McPeake, part of a traditional music dynasty in the city, had tried to have his identity protected due to fears his life was at risk. He fled his Eliza Street Close home in the Markets area last month after a mob of up to 60 people gathered outside.

Riot squad police had to disperse the crowd, who had arrived after details of the case against McPeake appeared on Facebook and in a Sunday newspaper. The accused faces a total of 12 charges involving alleged offences committed during 2009 and 2010.

Some of the alleged offences occurred in the Republic of Ireland and others in the Belfast area.

All of them involve the same alleged victim, a girl aged under 16. A temporary ban on identifying McPeake was imposed when he first appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court to allow his legal team time to seek a full prohibition. Defence lawyers then argued naming their client would breach his rights to life and freedom from torture, punishment and inhuman treatment. It was claimed that McPeake is different from other defendants because he is so well-known.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall accepted there would be a real and immediate risk to his life if he was to return to his home address.

But she refused to grant full reporting restrictions on the basis that he has now moved to a different, unidentified location.

In a ruling given on Tuesday Judge Bagnall said: "The evidence before me suggests the threat has come from the defendant's immediate locality.

"There is no verifiable or objective evidence that the level of threat would be replicated if he were to reside elsewhere."

Pointing out that McPeake has already been named in print and social media coverage, she said: "the identity of the defendant is obviously well-known in the Markets area".

She added: "In those circumstances it's likely those who are likely to pose a verifiable threat to the defendant already know his identity.

"Therefore publishing his name will not materially increase the threat to the defendant."

McPeake, whose new address cannot be revealed, then entered the dock for a preliminary inquiry hearing.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph