GAA referee jailed for 11 years for child sex abuse

editorial image

A well-known Co Antrim GAA referee was jailed on Wednesday for a total of 11 years for the sex abuse of six youngsters on differing dates stretching from the early 1980s to March 2000.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC told father-of-four, Patrick Francis McQuillan, that he was passing consecutive sentences because in his “view it is entirely appropriate ... to reflect the totality of your offending” which represented a sustained “course of sexual offending over a significant period of years with multiple victims”.

“As I have stated before, this is a serious case involving the abuse and corruption of young children by a mature man who stood in a position of trust. That breach is a gross breach ... and your abusive behaviour continued for nearly 20 years and you took advantage not only of your family but your social contacts with children to satisfy your illegal desires,” the Antrim Crown Court judge also told the 62-year-old.

McQuillan, from Moyle Avenue, Ballycastle, was convicted last month of 38 offences ranging from indecent assault, gross indecency, to the attempted buggery of two of his victims.

He used his position as a scout master, a member of St John’s Ambulance, and as a part-time fireman to abuse the young boys.

“In each case your abuse, of necessity, caused various degrees of psychological and emotional harm to your young victims. The only possible result of your conduct is a lengthy period of immediate imprisonment,” said Judge Kerr, who also put McQuillan on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life, banned him from working with children or vulnerable adults, and made him the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for the next 15 years.

As Judge Kerr detailed the abuse of each of the victims, he said they had been left with ‘adjustment disorders’, and he “noted that in each case there was a damaging effect upon the victims”, a finding which was “inevitable” having regard to McQuillan’s abuse which he still “resolutely” refused to acknowledge.

In those circumstances, he said, there was no mitigation in his case, and that like McQuillan, his family “just refuse to acknowledge the reality of the jury verdicts”.

His trial had heard that over the years McQuillan had abused his victims either in his or their homes, and some of his victims were regularly abused for a number of years.

The abuse, it was said, followed a similar pattern, and often started with McQuillan touching his victims over their clothing.

However, it soon progressed where he touched them, and or, tried to get them to touch him. Judge Kerr said in one case McQuillan, who knew his victim through scouting, indecently assaulted him while on the pretext of teaching him to swim.

In two other cases assaults took place while either showing his victims his St John’s Ambulance equipment, or pretending to demonstrate how to stop bleeding. On another occasion he sexually abused a victim in the local fire station.

McQuillan originally faced a total of 51 child sex abuse charges, involving seven complaints. Last month, the jury, of seven men and five women, who spent more than six hours deliberating over two days, acquitted him of indecently assaulting one of them, a girl. They also failed to reach verdicts on two other counts. They were allowed to ‘remain on the books’.

However, McQuillan was convicted, either on unanimous or majority verdicts, of sexually abusing all six of his male victims from when they were youngsters until they were in their teens. In addition to acquitting him of indecently assaulting the girl, he was also cleared of 10 other charges involving five of his male victims.

Defence barrister Brian McCartney QC said McQuillan had a clear criminal record and that there was “no allegation of violence from any of the complainants”, nor any “allegations of threats, blackmail or coercion”.

He said his convictions had now put a “stain on this man’s otherwise impeccable character”, and that prison, given his age and failing health, “will pose an element of hardship”.