Belfast Telegraph

Belfast pensioner Patrick Toal who abused two women over 19 years is jailed

By Ashleigh McDonald

Two women who were sexually abused by a man they viewed as a father and grandfather figure have said they felt justice has finally been served.

A 35-year-old woman and her 18-year-old niece - who were both targeted by west Belfast man Patrick Toal when they children - said they were pleased with the 12-year sentence imposed on the pensioner.

His abuse of the two women spanned 19 years and only ended in 2013 when his two victims went to the police.

Passing sentence, Judge Stephen Fowler QC said that both Toal's victims now suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The women said they were happy that the man who robbed them of childhood was now behind bars and not able to harm anyone else.

The 35-year old was first targeted by Toal - her mother's partner - after he plied her with vodka following an epileptic fit aged 12. But she revealed the abuse continued into her adulthood.

Despite the trauma of having to give evidence at the 71-year-old's trial due to his denials, she urged other victims to come forward.

The Belfast mother-of-three said: "Giving evidence in court was one of the hardest things I've had to do, but I was so relieved when the jury came back with the guilty verdicts.

"During the trial, trying to separate being in court and then going home to my kids was very difficult, but I'm glad I did it and now it's over.

"That man took away my childhood and my adulthood; he stole such a big chunk of my life."

Like many victims of abuse in the family home, the 35-year-old said she feared no one would believe her if she revealed what was happening to her at the hands of a man who was well-liked and was essentially her step-father.

As she explained: "For me, I felt at the time that if I had have said something and my mummy didn't believe me, I would have lost everything.

"My mummy loved him and I didn't want to take that happiness away from her.

"Also, I thought I was the only one he was hurting. I had no idea he was also hurting my niece.

"This has consumed me every day of my life for so long. People have said to me that I need to get on with my life, but it's not something I'll be able to get over in a week or a month. It will take time.

"He really is a horrible, foul, vile man. Everybody thought he was a lovely man - but I'm so glad he's locked up now.

"We as a family believe that there may be other victims out there, so if there are we would advise them to go to the police. I suffered in silence for years, so I would say that despite thinking you are on your own, you need to go and talk to someone about it."

Her niece, who is now 18 and who was first abused by the man she viewed as her grandfather when she was just seven, believes the abuse triggered her epilepsy.

Toal told the youngster that what he was doing to her was normal, that he loved her and that if she told anyone then he and her granny wouldn't be together any more and that she wouldn't be able to see him any more.

She is having to repeat a year at school, due in part to the stress of the trial, but hopes to go to university this time next year.

Like her aunt, the student was sexually abused and assaulted in the family home in west Belfast. She also endured abuse during a family holiday in Newcastle.

She said: "There was literally no escaping from him. I was seven when it started, and I loved him. It stopped when I was nine, but it started again when I was 12. Most of it happened when I was at my granny's house and he was looking after me.

"I was so young when it started. He told me it was normal and he was an adult, so I believed him.

"But towards the end, he was just getting so sure and so confident and so cocky.

"It even happened when other people were in the house."

Toal, formerly of Tollgate House in Bradbury Place, was found guilty by a jury earlier this year of 29 separate counts of sex abuse.

Judge Fowler told Toal that after he has served half his sentence, his release date will then be determined by the Paroles Commission.

Toal will spend a further three years on licence when he is released from custody.

He was also made the subject of an Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) for an indefinite period.

Belfast Telegraph


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