TWO sisters have been ‘robbed and cheated of their childhood innocence’, the Judge told a 66-year-old man as he jailed him for indecently assaulting them.
The man, who cannot be identified to protect his victims, was sentenced to 15 months for repeatedly abusing the two girls over an almost 12-year period. He is also to serve 36 months on probation.
Craigavon Crown Court heard the defendant began indecently assaulting one sister when she was seven-years-old and another sister from aged 10 or 11-years-old.
The offences against the sisters began sometime in 1961 when the defendant was 15-years-old.
The court heard the offences included indecently assaulting the youngest sister in his bedroom, in a barn and in a hen house.
Crown Prosecution, Liam McCollum QC told the court of one instance when the defendant’s seven-year-old sister had to walk through her brother’s bedroom to go to the bathroom when he indecently assaulted her.
The Crown QC also outlined how the defendant had put his hand up the other sister’s skirt and touched her when they were in a hen house. The victim was aged 10 or 11 at the time.
He was also accused of indecently assaulting her in a pig house. She told him to stop or she would tell their mother.
The defendant indecently assaulted her when she was in her mid teens. She struggled but her brother continued.
She was also sexually assaulted by her brother in a hen house while collecting eggs when she was aged 17.
Judge Desmond Marrinan said during sentencing on Monday, the age of the victims at the time of these sex assaults was one of the aggravating factors as well as the fact that the abuse took place over a number of years.
“The effect on the victims has been lifelong,” said Judge Marrinan adding they had been ‘robbed and cheated of their childhood innocence’.
Commenting on the Victim’s Impact Statements, he said: “There are scars caused by him which will never heal.”
The Judge said there were mitigations to be considered including that the defendant had pleaded guilty at arraignment and the most serious charges had not been proceeded with. He said while both victims did give evidence during a preliminary inquiry, they had been spared cross examination in front of a jury.
Judge Marrinan said it had been suggested the defendant had been ‘motivated by sexual naivety’, however, he added this is ‘somewhat diluted’ as the offences had ran on for so many years.
The Judge said he was taking into consideration the age of the defendant and that he had a heart condition. He said that while he accepted that immediate custody may have an effect on the defendant, he would have access to the prison hospital and get treatment on the NHS.
Another mitigating factor the Judge referred to was the defendant’s clear record.
The defendant’s minister, an elder of the Presbyterian Church he attends as well as the Clerk of Sessions all gave testimonials on his behalf.
“The defendant is remorseful. That remorse was repeated in court and I accept it is genuine,” he said.
The Judge said that the offences were so serious only a custodial sentence could be imposed.
Judge Marrinan said while the law had changed in 1989, the offences were carried out under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 where the maximum sentence was two years.
He said the Probation Service said he is a low risk of reoffending, and the last offence happened 40 years ago.
In sentencing the Judge began with the charges of indecent assault on one of the defendant’s sisters who was aged seven when the abuse began. The first was of indecent assault on dates unknown between August 1961 and August 1962. There were six similar charges, on dates from August 1963 to August 1964, from August 1966 to 1968, from 1969 to 1971 and from 1965 to 1970. He was given eight months jail and 18 months probation on each charges to run concurrently.
There were seven charges of indecent assault on the defendant’s other sister on dates from 1961 through to 1973. For each of these he was sentenced to seven months jail and 18 months probation to run concurrently.
The two sentences are to run consecutively with a total prison sentence of 15 months and probation of 36 months.
He is to complete the sex offenders group programme and will be on the sex offenders register for ten years.
He is banned from having any access to children under 16 and social services will be advising on contact with his grandchildren.
His wife and two members of his family sat in the dock with the defendant to say their goodbyes before he was taken to prison on Monday morning.