Belfast pensioner launches bid to clear name on sex abuse conviction

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A west Belfast pensioner jailed for sexually abusing two members of the same family has launched a bid to clear his name.

Patrick Toal, 72, is serving a 12-year sentence for a catalogue of offences spanning two decades.

But his lawyers claimed in the Court of Appeal that there was a procedural irregularity at his trial.

Toal, formerly of Tollgate House in Bradbury Place, was found guilty by a jury last year of 29 separate counts of abuse against a woman and her younger relative.

The campaign stretched to 19 years, only ending in 2013 when the two victims went to the police.

Following his conviction at Belfast Crown Court Toal was told his release date will only be determined by the Paroles Commission after he has served half his sentence.

He was also made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order and due to spend a further three years on licence on leaving jail.

But the pensioner has continued to maintain his innocence.

Prison guards escorted him into the Court of Appeal for an application to secure permission to challenge the convictions.

Defence barrister Charles McKay QC set out how Toal was previously acquitted on a separate charge of raping one of the complainants.

He argued that permission to cross-examine her about that issue was wrongly denied.

Refusing to allow details of the rape acquittal to be subsequently introduced at trial amounted to procedural irregularity in the process, Mr McKay claimed.

Following deliberations the three appeal judges confirmed they did not require submissions from the prosecution.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: “We will reserve judgment and deliver a written judgment as soon as we can.”