Belfast Telegraph

Couple face jail for cruelty and abuse of their two sons

By Ashleigh McDonald

A Co Antrim couple were yesterday warned that they could face jail after they were found guilty by a jury of offences against children.

While the 62-year-old man was found guilty of wilfully assaulting and ill-treating both his sons when they were children, which caused unnecessary suffering or injury to their health, his 59-year-old wife, who is their stepmother, was convicted of indecently assaulting them.

The cruelty to the boys was meted out by their father between January 1984 and August 1996 and included being lashed with a leather belt and punched in the face, while they were sexually abused by their stepmother between August 1991 and December 1995.

A jury of nine women and three men took over 10 hours to deliberate following a trial at Belfast Crown Court that spanned two weeks. The pair cannot be named to protect the identity of the complainants.

Following the deliberations, the forewoman delivered unanimous guilty verdicts on the four charges faced by the father, and on seven of the 10 charges levelled at his wife. She was cleared of the remaining three offences.

The couple showed no emotion as the verdicts were announced. As a result of the charges she was convicted of, Judge McFarland ordered the woman to sign the sex offenders' register. During the trial the jury heard evidence from both complainants who spoke of a "climate of fear" in the family home, where they were physically assaulted by their father and sexually abused by their stepmother.

The brothers both left home in their late teens.

They made formal complaints in 2015.

When the couple were arrested, the boys' father denied the cruelty and assault charges, making the claim that he was being caught in a nasty family feud, while the stepmother said the allegations against her were "just invented".

The jury also heard that while both accused denied the claims made by the brothers, their father did admit to being a disciplinarian who used "reasonable" chastisement.

Defence teams for the couple said the brothers had worked together and "colluded" against their parents to concoct the allegations.

After the verdicts were returned, Judge McFarland placed the woman on the sex offenders' register and told her husband he could be banned from working with children or vulnerable adults.

He granted the couple bail, but before releasing them the Belfast Recorder said: "There is a high likelihood of a custodial sentence. You should be aware of that."

The couple were told to return to Belfast Crown Court for sentencing on February 6 next year.

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