Former Co Down school caretaker jailed for abuse of ‘vulnerable’ girl

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A former school caretaker who duped a young and “vulnerable” girl into performing a sex act on the pretence of a game has been jailed for two years.

Jailing 60-year-old Mark Gerard Cole on condition that he spends a further three years on probation, Newry Crown Court Judge Kevin Finnegan QC said he hoped the end of the case “will give some measure of closure” to the victim, who is now in her 20s.

PSNI

PSNI

At an earlier hearing Cole, originally from Thomas Street in Warrenpoint but whose address was given as c/o Magilligan prison, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of indecent assault against his victim on dates between July 1997 and July 2001 when she would have been between four and seven years old.

Prosecuting lawyer Fiona O’Kane revealed how she “gained the fortitude to come forward” in December 2014 after reading in the press how her tormentor had been jailed for sexually abusing three other girls.

The previous month Cole was handed a five-year custody probation order, two to be spent in jail and three on probation, after he pleaded guilty to 19 counts of indecent assault on various dates between May 30 1990 to June 30 1999.

Cole, who was a caretaker at St Mark’s High School in Warrenpoint, Co Down, admitted 15 offences in relation to one victim, three counts in relation to a second victim and a single charge in relation to a third.

In court on Thursday Mrs O’Kane said while not minimising that case, the abuse he carried out “was not as grave” as the present case.

When he was arrested after the woman came forward, Cole confessed during police interviews and pleaded guilty when he was first arraigned.

Mrs O’Kane submitted that while she accepted Cole was assessed as a medium risk of reoffending but not dangerous, he had caused a “high degree” of harm to his victim and that his culpability was also high in that the offences represented a breach of trust.

Defence barrister Kevin Magill said that Cole had expressed “genuine remorse and empathy” for his victim and that the main feature to take into account was the “totality principle” in that what sentence would have been passed if this case had been dealt with along with his previous case.

Conceding that it would be “foolish” to suggest a heavier sentence would not have been passed, the lawyer revealed that had it not been for the fresh allegations, Cole would have been freed last November, adding that his “aspiration is ultimately to do everything that’s required of him” so that he can try to rebuild his life again.

As well as the jail term, Cole was ordered to sign the police sex offenders register for 10 years and made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for the same period.