A Co Down man branded by a judge as a “sexual predator’’ has been jailed for five years for the “repeated and persistent’’ sexual abuse of his young nephew.
Thomas Francis Donaghy, 77, of O’Callaghan Road, Silverbridge, Newry, Co Down, was found guilty in June by a unanimous jury verdict of eight counts of gross indecency and eight counts of indecent assault on Micheal Donaghy.
The offences spanned a four-year period over three decades ago when the victim was aged 10 and slept in his uncle’s bed.
Speaking outside Belfast’s Laganside court complex following sentence, Micheal Donaghy said he was “relieved’’ that his uncle had finally been jailed for sexually abusing him “over a long period of time”.
“There are no winners in all of this,’’ said the 44-year-old father from Silverbridge in Co Down.
“It is just a relief that it is finally all over and I don’t have to come back to court.’’
Asked about how his family didn’t believe him and had shunned him since he went to the police, Mr Donaghy replied: “I just have to move on with my life.”
He added: “I want to thank prosecution counsel Geraldine McCullough, the Public Prosecution Service, the PSNI, Nexus, Victim Support for all the support they gave me throughout this case.
“I also want to thank my close neighbours and friends for standing by me, for believing in me and for all their support and help.’’
During the hearing, prosecution lawyer Geraldine McCullough told Newry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, that Micheal Donaghy had been shunned by his father, mother, brother and sister since he first told them about the allegations.
“However, he has the continued support of his wife Sinead and children throughout these proceedings. The defendant still denies these offences and has shown no remorse.’’
Ms McCullough added that the aggravating features in the case were that the sexual abuse took place at night when the Donaghy family were in bed; the breach of trust by an uncle on his nephew; and that no remorse had been shown.
Donaghy’s defence barrister, John Kearney QC, said: “He hails from a country area. He has lost everything that was important to him.
“He has lost his good name and his reputation. He wants to move back to the area where he lives upon his release from prison.
“It is accepted that this was a breach of trust in the sleeping arrangements.’’
Outlining the facts of the case, Judge Stephen Fowler QC said Micheal Donaghy would stay at his grandparents’ family farmhouse in Silverbridge where his paedophile uncle also lived.
The judge said the victim had to sleep in his uncle’s double bed as there was no other bedroom available.
The judge said that defendant “had deliberately set about grooming and sexually abusing Micheal for his own sexual purpose’’ from an early age which had caused the victim a “significant degree of harm which, in my view, was substantial’’.
The court was also told that when Micheal Donaghy decided to tell his parents and his brother and sister about the abuse, “they didn’t believe him and he was left feeling angry’’.
Judge Fowler QC said that it wasn’t until Micheal Donaghy’s children reached the age that he was when he was abused that he “felt compelled to report the matters to the police’’.
His uncle was later arrested by the PSNI and during interview denied sexually abusing his nephew.
The defendant accused his nephew of making up the allegations saying Micheal Donaghy had found that out he had left his land to another nephew.
“These matters were placed before the jury,’’ said Judge Fowler QC, “and it was the cornerstone of the defendant’s defence and which the jury duly rejected.’’
Branding the defendant a “sexual predator’’, the judge added: “This was sexual abuse carried out against a child who was vulnerable because of his age and who was in the formative years of his life.
“This abuse happened in his grandparents’ home where he should have felt safe and where he should have been safe. The abuse was a serious breach of trust. The defendant was in a position of trust and told his victim that it would be their secret.
“The defendant has expressed no remorse and has given no insight into his conduct.’’
Donaghy was jailed for five years concurrent on each of the eight counts of indecent assault. He received concurrent two-year prison terms for the eight counts of gross indecency.
The judge also banned him from working with children and ordered Donaghy to be subject to a Sexual Offenders Prevention Order for five years.
Additionally, the defendant must also notify police within three days of his release of an address he plans to live at, any change of address, and also any plans to travel abroad for more than three days.