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Limavady man 'looked up and smiled' while abusing his nieces, court hears

By Eamonn MacDermott

A 65-year-old man who sexually abused two of his nieces "always looked up and smiled" as he abused them, Londonderry Crown Court has heard.

Gerald O'Hara from Beech Road in Limavady was sentenced yesterday for indecently assaulting two of his nieces in the 1980s.

The two victims waived their right to anonymity so that O'Hara can be identified and the court heard that one of them was between 13 to 14 years old while the other was abused from the age of 10 until she was 17.

All of the offences occurred between August 1980 and August 1987.

O'Hara had been found guilty by a jury after a trial.

The court heard that one niece was indecently assaulted while babysitting at the defendant's home.

The girl who was aged around 13 was sleeping in a room along with a baby in a cot.

The child starting crying and O'Hara came into the room.

The court was told that O'Hara was rocking the cot with one hand while putting his other hand under the blankets to indecently assault the girl.

The other niece gave evidence that O'Hara assaulted her on numerous occasions including once when she was standing at a sink in the kitchen. On another occasion he assaulted her in a bathroom and in a coal bunker on several occasions.

The woman told the court O'Hara "always looked up and smiled at her as he abused her" and she added she "prayed for it to be over".

On another occasion O'Hara assaulted her when she was babysitting and sleeping over.

He pulled the blankets down and indecently assaulted her while she pretended to be sleeping.

Judge Philip Babington said that he had read victim impact reports on both women and the assaults had had "a substantial effect" on them both. He said "both are still suffering today as a result of the abuse".

The judge said he had received references for the defendant that described him as "a good family man" but the judge added "of course that cannot take into account the conduct which the jury has found him to be guilty of".

The court was told that there were a number of aggravating factors in the case including the fact that it occurred in a familial setting, over a long period of time and there was 'a serious abuse of trust' in the case.

Describing O'Hara's actions as 'particularly reprehensible' Judge Babington said: "He took advantage of them on numerous occasions without any regard for their feelings and for what he might have been doing to them."

He said the offences were committed 'for his own self gratification' and that he did not appear to have any remorse. He sentenced O'Hara to nine years in prison which will mean seven years custodial and two years probation. He was also ordered to sign the sex offender's register for an indefinite period and a sexual offenders prevention order was imposed for a period of five years.

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