A Co Antrim man who indecently assaulted his nephew whilst renovations were taking place in the ‘family home’ was spared jail today.
The 65-year-old, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his nephew, was handed a six-month prison sentence which was suspended for two years.
He admitted a single charge of indecently assaulting his nephew in November 1995, when he was 42 and the complainant was 18.
Belfast Crown Court heard that whilst the offence was “opportunistic” and a one-off, it did have a “significant impact” on the complainant, who in a Victim Impact Report said: “Since my uncle pleaded guilty, there has been a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Prosecutor Kate McKay told Judge David McFarland that in November 1995, the complainant was 18 and living in Co Fermanagh, and that an arrangement was made for him to travel to Belfast and stay with his grandparents in the ‘family home’ to help with renovation work.
At the time, the defendant was in his 40s and living with his parents in the Belfast property.
Ms McKay said that due to the renovation work, there was a lack of space, and the arrangement was that the complainant would share a bed with his uncle.
On the night of the offence, the family had a meal which included wine. Later that evening, when both men were in bed, the uncle “rolled over to the complainant and told him he was gay and he loved him.”
Revealing this left the teenager “shocked and speechless,” Mr McKay said the uncle began kissing his nephew then indecently assaulted him. This made the complainant feel physically sick and the next morning he made his excuses, left his grandparents house and went back to Co Fermanagh.
Ms McKay said the nephew told no-one expect his wife what happened, and he didn’t make an official complaint until 2016 when it emerged his uncle has sexually abused another family member in May 2016.
The court heard the complainant has already been sentenced for the May 2016 incident.
Ms McKay concluded the Crown’s case by saying that whilst the complainant was an adult at the time, there was still a breach of trust. The prosecuting barrister said: “This involves an uncle who was 24 years old than his nephew, and he would have expected to feel safe in his company and in his grandparents house.”
Defence barrister Gavan Duffy said the complainant “has always identified as a gay man but because of societal circumstances, he got married and had three children and has two grandchildren.”
The barrister also said his client came out in his 40s, which led to a “termination of marriage”, adding that he now leads a “very solitary existence” as his children and grandchildren have no contact with him due to his conviction for sexual abuse.
Regarding the offence in November 1995, Mr Duffy said the defendant accepted full responsibility and realises the harm he has caused his nephew due to this “impulsive act.”
Judge McFarland spoke of the impact the incident has had – not just on the complainant but on the wider family circle – and said the guilty plea was welcomed as it avoided a trial and acted as a “public vindication to the victim.”