Belfast Telegraph

Jailed after third trial, scout leader who began abuse of boys when 12

BY Michael Donnelly

The victims of a former scout leader who began sexually abusing children when he was a youngster himself have spoken of their relief that they can now get on with their lives.

Colin Finnegan sexually abused five youngsters over a 16-year period up to November 1997. Yesterday he was sentenced to 11 years after a third trial.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC told the 44-year-old that it was "chilling to note you still maintain your denials and consider yourself the victim".

The judge said that each victim described being befriended by the defendant, who was known to them as an older youth connected to Bessbrook scout hall.

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

On other occasions Finnegan, who was 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.

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

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 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 she has done for us.

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

Last month Finnegan, whose address was given as Sloan Hill Mews, Lurgan, was convicted of a total of 59 sex charges at the end of a 12-day trial. 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 would have been 12.

The last was when he would have been aged 28.

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. You robbed them of their innocence and childhood".

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