Pensioner jailed for abusing three siblings

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A Belfast man who sexually abused three siblings over an eight-year period was sent to jail today (Friday).

The 72-year old, who cannot be named to protect the identity of two sisters and brother he abused, was handed a six-year sentence.

The pensioner was informed by Judge Geoffrey Miller QC that he will serve half his sentence in prison, followed by a three-year period on probation when he is released.

Belfast Crown Court heard that the defendant - who was in a relationship with their grandmother - used to bring one of his young victims to work with him on a Saturday morning, where he would abuse her on a regular basis whilst playing chase and catch.

He initially denied a host of sexual offences, but appeared at Belfast Crown Court today after admitting six counts of indecent assault against the siblings over an eight-year period spanning from 1998 to 2005. Each of the children were under the age of ten when they were targetted by their grandmother’s partner.

Judge Miller said his admission vindicated his victims and spared them the trauma of giving evidence in court.

Prior to sending, Crown prosecutor Laura Ivers revealed all the abuse occurred in Downpatrick - mainly in the chldren’s grandmother’s home. The defendant began abusing the oldest sibling, who the court heard “spent a lot of time with her grandmother.”

The girl was sexually assaulted by the defendant both in her grandmother’s house, and in the man’s place of work, from the ages of six to ten. Ms Ivers said this victim was targetted “never every time she visited ... and he had the opportunity.”

Her younger sister was abused from the ages of six to eight. Many of his abuse occurred when he was babysitting for his partner. The prosecutor said these incidents occurred “every time he had the opportunity.”

Also abused was their brother, who regarded the defendant as a father figure. He was abused once by his granny’s partner when he was aged around six or seven, who told him what occurred was a “wee secret” between them.

The alarm was initially raised in 2005, when the male victim alerted his mother to the defendant’s behaviour towards his sister. A confrontation ensued, leading to the defendant leaving his partner’s home.

No official complainant was made at that time, however each of the siblings subsequently revealed what happened to them. Two of the siblings went to police in March 2011, with the third making a complaint two years later.

When the defendant was arrested and questioned, he initially denied claims made by the two sisters and brother. However, he has since pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault.

Ms Ivers concluded by telling the court that all three victims have been affected by what happened to them in their childhoods, but that all three are now “trying to move on with their lives.”

Defence barrister Ken McMahon QC told Judge Miller that his client came before the court at the age of 72 with an otherwise completely clear criminal record.

Mr McMahon also said the admissions of guilt were “significant.”

Passing sentence, Judge Miller said that a majority of the abuse occurred in a place where the children should have felt safe. Pointing out the breach of trust, the Judge that while all the siblings “may put on a brave face,” he was in no doubt that what happened to them will continue to impact on their lives “for years to come.”