Belfast Telegraph

The system has let me down, says man who wasn’t told his rapist had been freed from prison

By Claire McNeilly

An abuse victim has spoken of his disgust at learning via a social networking site that his attacker is back on the streets.

Stephen Graham, now 21, endured horrific sexual assaults as a young teenager at the hands of Henry Irwin.

In 2007, paedophile Irwin was imprisoned for a total of 13 years and nine months for a catalogue of sex crimes — including raping Mr Graham.

At that time, Mr Graham, then 16, waived his anonymity to speak exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph about his traumatic ordeal.

Now, more than five years on, the Belfast man has chosen to do the same thing because he is distraught that Irwin has been released after serving just seven years of his sentence.

Mr Graham knew that Irwin, from east Belfast and formerly of McMaster Street, wouldn’t serve his whole sentence because of Northern Ireland’s controversial 50% remission law, but didn’t expect him to be freed so soon.

“I thought he was going to get out this month, but I was wrong; he’s already out there,” said Mr Graham, who now is father to two young children. He has been out since October of last year, but I only found out a couple of days ago when one of my friends sent me a message on Facebook.

“Nobody warned me when he was going to be released.

“I thought they would have. I feel abandoned.”

Stephen was just 13 when Irwin, then 43, and a supposed friend, subjected him to a terrifying rape ordeal in April 2005.

It was the culmination of a string of offences perpetrated by the pervert, who was found guilty of no fewer than 45 sexual assault charges against a number of children including Stephen.

The trauma of being repeatedly violated led Stephen to attempt suicide three times, but until recently he believed he had put the nightmare behind him.

“His face never leaves me,” he said. “I won’t be able to totally move on until this monster is behind bars again — or dead.”

He added: “I will never forgive him for what he did. I can’t look to the future at the moment. Irwin getting out has been a huge setback. He took away my childhood and now it feels as if he has taken away my adulthood.”

Mr Graham said he can rely on the support of his former partner Lisa and their two young boys as he faces up to this latest psychological challenge.

“I have a great family, and was over the moon when I became a dad, but it’s been hard at times because I still remember everything that happened to me,” he said.

“When he was in jail it was on my mind, but now he’s out I know it won’t go away; I can’t move on.”

Mr Graham said he was unhappy about the terms of Irwin’s release on licence.

“I’ve moved house since he went to prison — so I no longer live in the areas that he’s banned from,” he explained.

“I don’t know if I’m scared of bumping into him — or scared of what I’ll do if I see him — but I won’t know until it happens.

“What I do know is that I’m not a child anymore; I’m 21 now.”

Now a parent, Mr Graham said that his main priority is to keep his boys and other children safe.

“I’m angry that the conditions of his licence allow him to visit his parents because they live near me and close to my oldest child’s school,” he said.

“It’s disgusting. I feel let down by the system. I want him tagged and I want him banned from anywhere that would bring him close to my family.

“When it concerns paedophiles in Northern Ireland, they seem to look after people who have offended better than they look after victims of crime.”

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph