Belfast Telegraph

Prison for man found guilty of ‘appalling’ sexual abuse of three girls over 15-year period

Gerald O’Hara arriving at court in Londonderry
Gerald O’Hara arriving at court in Londonderry

By George Jackson

A Co Londonderry man who abused three girls over a 15-year period has been jailed.

Gerald O'Hara (67) was unanimously found guilty last month following a nine-day trial at Londonderry Crown Court of 14 charges of sexually abusing the girls, starting in August 1978 when they were at primary school.

O'Hara, from Beech Park in Drumsurn, near Limavady, will spend eight-and-a-half years in prison and two years on probation.

The court was told he still maintains his innocence and his family members support him in his continuing denials.

O'Hara, who had a previously clear record and was found unanimously not guilty of nine other similar charges, was placed on the sex offenders' register for life. He will be subject to the terms of a Sexual Offences Protection Order for five years after his prison release.

He had previously been convicted at an earlier trial of eight of the total of 23 charges, but following his re-trial after he appealed his original convictions, he was convicted of 14 of the charges.

When he was questioned about the allegations in April and May 2014, O'Hara denied them and said he was sickened by what the girls had accused him of.

Judge Philip Babington said, having read the victim impact statements from the three victims, that there was no doubt O'Hara's abuse has had a profound effect on them.

He said the abuse involved a degree of planning and pre-meditation.

Judge Babington said following his conviction last month, O'Hara was effectively driven out of his home village of Drumsurn. His car was set on fire and people threatened to burn down his family home.

He said: "It seems there are still occasional threats being made against him.

"He has had to leave the village but hopes to return in due course. This court strongly disapproves of such behaviour and recognises that this is an additional matter that the defendant will have to endure."

Judge Babington described O'Hara's behaviour against the three girls as appalling.

As well as jailing O'Hara, Judge Babington also placed him on the barred list relating to children and vulnerable adults and disqualified him from ever working with children.

He is also banned from contacting his three victims and banned from unsupervised contact or communication with children under the age of 16.

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