Woman accused of sex offences against girl acquitted
A woman has been acquitted of all sexual offences allegedly committed against a young girl over 30 years ago by direction of the judge.
Catherine Meehan (48) of Railway Crescent, Belcoo, Co Fermanagh, was accused of eight counts each of indecently assaulting and gross indecency with the child.
Dungannon Crown Court heard the offences were alleged to have occurred on dates between 1981 and 1984. All charges were denied from the outset.
The first day of the trial heard from the alleged victim who claimed she was made to carry out intimate touching and sexual activity on the accused, in a pattern of abuse which intensified over time.
The victim claimed she had been warned this was their secret and if she told anyone her baby brother would die.
Among the allegations, the victim claimed she was made to carry out an oral sex act on Ms Meehan.
The alleged victim, who gave evidence from behind a screen, stated the defendant had babysat her and helped with homework.
She said: "A very gradual process began. At first the attention I was getting was fine, but as things started to progress, I became afraid. By that time I had been told it was our secret and I was not to tell anyone."
The victim disclosed nothing of the alleged abuse at the time but would later partially discuss it with a family member. However, she did not feel strong enough to report the matter formally or seek assistance until recent years.
During the second day of hearing Ms Meehan's police interview was read to the court, in which she said she was "dumbstruck" by the allegations, and had no indication why they had been made.
She rejected there had ever been any sexual contact of any kind and described such activity with a child as "disgusting and grotesque".
It was confirmed Ms Meehan has no criminal record and she is a popular businesswoman in the Fermanagh area. Seated in the dock, she was visibly shocked and upset at the disclosures in the alleged victim's evidence.
By late afternoon of the second day, submissions were made by defence lawyers on the viability of the charges and credibility of evidence.
On day three the jury were called in and issued with a direction by His Honour Judge Stephen Fowler QC, to return not guilty verdicts on all counts.
He then told Ms Meehan she was free to leave the court.