Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Belfast Jehovah's Witness avoids jail for historic sex abuse of young girl

Suspended sentence: Charles Loyal
Suspended sentence: Charles Loyal

By Michael Donnelly

An elderly former Jehovah's Witness from Belfast who sexually abused a young girl in the church in the late 1970s has avoided going to prison.

An 18-month jail term handed to Charles Frederick Loyal was suspended for two years, after a judge took into consideration his age, poor health, guilty pleas, and previous clear record.

The 77-year-old pensioner from Waveney Heights, who is also the sole carer for his registered blind wife, had pleaded guilty to 12 charges of indecently assaulting the child when she was aged eight to ten and he was in his late 30s.

Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland said normally such offending required a custodial sentence for those who abuse children. He said that while he would not reduce his 12 concurrent 18-month sentences, he would suspend the prison terms, given the mitigating factors, which also included an unexplained delay in the case.

Prosecution lawyer Kate McKay had told Belfast Crown Court that the abuse had taken place in a number of locations, including church meetings when Loyal would hold Bible classes, although he did not hold a position within the church.

Ms McKay said that the indecent assaults involved Loyal touching the girl outside her clothing, and him getting her to do likewise.

The court also heard that Loyal's guilty pleas were greatly welcomed, particularly for his victim.

Defence QC Richard Weir said the guilty pleas of a shamed Loyal had provided the vindication sought by his victim.

He continued that, with his public confession for his utterly reprehensible behaviour, his client had lost his reputation within the church and society.

Mr Weir said that while initially his client had been equivocal, this was because of the shame he felt about the matter, but now he had publicly recognised the wrong he had done.

But he added that given his age and ill health, it was unlikely Loyal would re-offend in the future.

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