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Paedophile ‘too fat for jail’ shows no remorse

By Lisa Smyth

A morbidly obese paedophile deemed too fat for jail has refused to apologise to his victim as he faces a legal challenge to his original sentence.

In December John William McConaghy (66), also known as Jack, escaped being sent to prison despite being found guilty of a litany of sex attacks on a young girl beginning when she was just 10-years-old.

Suspending the two-and-a-half year sentence for three years, Judge David Smyth said he was freeing McConaghy, from Urbal Road in Dervock, Co Antrim, given the “wholly exceptional circumstances” surrounding his health.

The sentence sparked outrage, particularly as McConaghy — a former church elder — maintained his innocence throughout his 10-day trial, forcing his victim to give evidence and relive the distressing details of the abuse she suffered for over eight years.

The case was subsequently referred to the Attorney General who sent it back to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that it may be unduly lenient.

Sitting in his wheelchair outside the Court of Appeal in Belfast yesterday, McConaghy told the Belfast Telegraph he had no comment to make and when pressed on whether he would like to apologise to his victim, he said: “I don’t want to have a chat. I have no comment to make, no comment at all.”

McConaghy showed no expression as details of the vile abuse were read out to the court.

Challenging the sentence in the Court of Appeal, Gerry Simpson QC, for the Attorney General, set out how the victim was preyed upon after her parents became friendly with McConaghy.

The appeal was adjourned, however, after issues were raised about the level of detail from prison authorities about how they handle disabled inmates and their ability to cope with McConaghy.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: “Here is a man who has contested the charge of a campaign of assault on this unfortunate victim and he asked the court to show mercy on him.

“It seems to us if he wants mercy we need to be in possession of all relevant facts, including whether the prison can deal with him if we decide to interfere (with the sentence). We still don't have material to tell us whether the prison can cope with this man.”

The hearing was adjourned until next month to allow counsel to ascertain from the prison authorities whether they have the facilities to meet the medical requirements of McConaghy, as well as the protocol surrounding disabled prisoners.

The attacks occurred when McConaghy was alone with his victim, particularly when — as a trusted family friend — he drove her to see her grandmother. During some periods, the attacks were a daily occurrence.

McConaghy would grope his victim and force his hand up her skirt. His victim would scream and occasionally swear at him. Judges were told the woman recalled on one occasion: “I tried to shove his hand away but it was like shoving a brick wall.”

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