Four years' prison for pervert foster father who abused girl he was supposed to look after
A Co Down foster father who sexually abused a young girl placed in his care was jailed for four years yesterday.
Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, was told the 71-year-old, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, had preyed on the girl from primary school age.
Judge Stephen Fowler QC told the former security guard that his crimes were a "gross breach of trust".
The paedophile had been charged with rape and sexual assault and was due to stand trial in June.
However, 10 days before the trial was due to start, he was re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent assault, two of gross indecency and one charge of inciting a child to commit an act of gross indecency.
He denied a charge of rape, which the prosecution declined to proceed with.
The court was told that the offences were committed on dates between October 1984 and October 1991, when the victim was aged between five and 11.
Judge Fowler said that there was a "significant age gap" of 34 years between the defendant and his foster daughter, who is now 36 and married.
The judge explained that the complainant had been fostered to live with the defendant, his wife and their two young children, adding that she had regarded him as "her father".
During police interviews in February last year, the woman told police that "skin to skin" sexual abuse took place at the family home in Bangor and at a caravan they owned.
The court heard that the victim, who was accompanied by her former boyfriend, later confronted her foster father about the abuse at his home.
The paedophile is alleged to have told her at that time: "I knew that this complaint was coming."
The judge, who read and listened to the woman's interviews with police, described them as "harrowing" and said the abuse had a huge impact on her life, leaving her suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
When the police interviewed the defendant in July last year, he admitted that he indecently assaulted his foster daughter, but he denied raping her.
Judge Fowler said: "The impact on the victim, who was a child at the time, was considerable. She was abused at home and at a family caravan for over six years where she should have felt safe and secure.
"This abuse has had a long-term effect on her, and she continues to suffer sufficient harm. This was a gross breach of trust."
The judge told the court the breach of trust was among a number of aggravating factors, including that the defendant was a foster parent who was supposed to look after the victim.
"She was placed in his care in a family home, which should have been a place of refuge and security for her," he said. "The abuse lasted over six years and there was a considerable age gap between them. Considerable harm was caused to the victim."
Judge Fowler told the former night security guard that if he had contested the charges and had been found guilty after trial, he would have imposed a sentence of between six and six-and-a-half years.
"Taking into account all relevant aggravating and mitigating factors, I consider the appropriate sentence to be one of five years," he added. "Four years will be spent in custody followed by one year probation."
Although the defendant was placed on the sex offenders' register and barred from working with children and vulnerable adults, the judge said he did not believe it was appropriate to make him the subject of a Sexual Offenders' Prevention Order "given the length of time since this offending".