Ex-scout’s sex abuse prison term extended

Colin Finnegan.
Colin Finnegan.

An 11-year jail sentence imposed on a former scout leader who subjected five boys to systematic sexual abuse was unduly lenient, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Senior judges ordered Colin Finnegan to serve an extra two years in prison for his “campaign of violence and corruption”.

Finnegan, 44, formerly of Sloan Hill Mews, Lurgan, Co Armagh, was convicted last year of a total of 58 sex offences.

The charges, stretching back to the early ‘80s, covered a 14-year period, beginning when he was himself a youth.

He used his position within the Bessbrook unit of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland to befriend and then molest his young victims.

Finnegan was found to have preyed on four boys and used them for his own sexual gratification.

A fifth victim remains unknown.

Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions mounted an appeal against the sentence imposed, arguing that the trial judge had been too lenient.

Barra McGrory QC pointed out how Finnegan had been a scout leader entrusted to look after the boys aged as young as nine.

Instead he plied them with drugs and alcohol before carrying out the abuse.

Finnegan showed absolutely no remorse and fought the case to the bitter end, putting the victims through multiple trials, the DPP contended.

According to his assessment, any benefit from carrying out some of the offences as a child was lost when he persisted into his 20s.

The court heard how all of the victims have suffered long-term effects and deep-rooted trauma.

Complaints include low self-esteem, acute anxiety, depression, profound feelings of shame, development of stammers, skin conditions, flashbacks and relationship difficulties.

Resisting the DPP’s challenge, defence counsel stressed that the 58 convictions only related to 24 specific incidents.

Out of these, 18 were committed when Finnegan was himself a child.

However, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justice Girvan and Mr Justice Weatherup, ruled that no discount in the sentence should have been allowed for mitigation.

“In offences of this kind, involving a campaign of serious violence against and corruption of multiple children personal circumstances are unlikely to weigh heavily,” the judge said.

“We are satisfied that a sentence of 11 years is quite insufficient to represent the culpability and harm connected with this series of offences, even bearing in mind that some of the offences were committed when the offender was still a child.”

Declaring the original prison term unduly lenient, Sir Declan confirmed the sentence was being altered so that Finnegan will now serve 13 years in jail.