Man who sexually abused granddaughter avoids jail

Laganside Courts, Belfast.  Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 22/5/2013
Laganside Courts, Belfast. Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 22/5/2013

A retired teacher who sexually abused his granddaughter for a period of almost two years has been spared jail.

Belfast Crown Court heard the 75-year-old sexually assaulted the youngster on several occasions, including whilst she was off school sick, and also whilst she was doing homework in his home.

The girl, who was aged nine when the abuse began, informed a school counsellor about what was happening to her in December 2015.

Her grandfather was arrested the following day and made full admissions. He later told a doctor that he didn’t know why he sexually abused his granddaughter and revealed that during the last incident – which occurred on December 4 last year – the then 12-year-old “looked me in my eye. I could see the shock in her eyes. It felt like a psychotic episode. I stopped. I knew this was awful, sinful”.

The west Belfast man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was handed a three-year probation order by Judge Geoffrey Miller QC, who stipulated that the pensioner attend a sexual offenders programme.

He was also ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for five years, and was made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, part of which bans him from having any unsupervised contact with children.

The former teacher admitted a total of eight offences, spanning from May 2013 to December 2015. He admitted multiple counts of sexually assaulting the girl, as well as causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity.

Defence barrister Richard Greene QC told the court that following his arrest, his client made immediate and full admissions to police - something which spared his granddaughter having to give evidence in court.

Recalling the pensioner’s working record as a teacher and his former good standing within the community, Mr Greene said that at the age of 75, his client came before the court for the first time and had a completely clear criminal record.

Passing sentence, Judge Miller paid tribute to the young girl, whose innocence was taken by a man she thought she could trust.

Judge Miller also said the case was “exceptional”, and noting the pensioner’s age, clear record and remorse, he made him the subject of a three-year probation order.