Former Scout leader faces 70 counts of sexual abuse

Colin Finnegan.
Colin Finnegan.

A FORMER Scout leader, formerly of Bessbrook, who is now understood to be living in Lurgan, has gone on trial for 70 counts of sexual abuse against four boys.

Colin Finnegan, whose address was given in court as Stonehill Mews, Lurgan, stands accused of committing the offences between 1982 and 1997.

The trial, which is being held at Newry Crown Court, started last week in front of the fresh jury, after the original jurors were discharged for legal reasons earlier this year.

The court heard Witness One describe a litany of sexual abuse he says Finnegan, who originally hails from Bessbrook where he has spent most of his life, subjected him to between the ages of eight or nine until just before his 16th birthday.

The witness claimed that Finnegan’s systematic abuse of him began during a 1982 camping trip to Gosford Forest Park, near Markethill when the complainant was a cub-scout and Finnegan a fully-fledged scout.

The court heard it claimed that the now 43-year-old entered the complainant’s tent, which he was sharing with four or five other young boys, on the first night of the trip. The witness alleges that Finnegan asked him inappropriate questions about an intimate male body part. He added that he was the only boy awake in the tent and that Finnegan then proceeded to “fondle” an intimate body part belonging to another boy who was asleep.

The witness then told the court that Finnegan began collecting him from home to walk him to weekly meetings at the scout hall. The court was told that Finnegan “would always bring the conversation round to a sexual topic” and, at times, brought pornographic magazines, which he showed the complainant.

Again, the court heard that the defendant made inappropriate remarks of an extremely graphic sexual nature to the witness.

The court was told that, as well as walking the complainant to the cub meetings, the defendant would also walk him home.

“On many occasions he would ask me to stay behind to do things in the hall,” the witness said. “He would tell the others I was staying behind to help him tidy up. He would usually end up abusing me.”

The witness described instances of sexual abuse across the full spectrum which he said happened when he was aged 10 or 11. Incidents which he described as “absolutely excruciating.”

The witness told the court that, after the first alleged incident of sexual abuse he found blood in his underwear when he got home, and described “burying” his pants in the outside bin to prevent his mother from seeing it.

“My overarching memory is the intense pain I had for days after,” he told the court.

The witness claimed sexual abuse occurred several times after the first occasion, always in the scout hall.

“I would usually end up crying and he would stop at that point,” the witness said.

He told the jury that Finnegan once encouraged him to steal underwear or tights from his mother. He said that he stole a pair of white stockings and that Finnegan made him put them on before inappropriately touching himself while the youngster was still wearing them.

The court also heard the witness describe an incident he claims happened in woods near his home, involving another of the complainants. On this occasion, which the witness claims was when he was about 12, he said Finnegan took him and a younger boy of about eight or nine into the woods where he sexually abused both boys. Incidents of abuse said to have happened in a red van driven by Finnegan were also described to the court, as well as an incident in Derramore Woods.

The witness described his dread, brought on by the AIDS Awareness television campaign of the time, that he may have contracted the condition.

He said that a mixture of fear and disgust had kept him quiet and that it was the birth of his daughter that “triggered a reliving in my mind and made me realise the significance and the impact of what had happened to me as a child”.

The witness told the court that he suffered a nervous breakdown in 2005 and was admitted to Daisy Hill Hospital several times, causing the end of his career. It was after this, the witness claimed, that he sought counselling “to address the demons in my head”.

“It was this counselling that gave me the strength to finally go to the police,” he added.

During cross-examination, defence pointed out discrepancies between the evidence given by the witness at this and the aborted trial, as well as between his fresh evidence and his initial written account of his case and statements to police.

The witness was accused of deliberately changing some of his evidence so it would “dovetail” with the evidence of another of the complainants. It was also put to him that he has concocted all events and that, as Finnegan is maintaining, no sexual abuse ever occurred - an assertion adamantly refuted by the witness.

The trial continues.