A County Armagh man who subjected two younger sisters to a campaign of ‘reprehensible’ sexual abuse over a prolonged period of time was today (Friday) jailed for a total of 10 years.
The man – who cannot be named in order to protect his victims – began his offending at the age of 14, against his sisters who were both younger than him at the time.
He was also jailed for one count of indecently assaulting a schoolgirl while he himself was in his 40s.
Her Honour Judge Roseanne McCormick KC handed down six separate sentences, ranging from 18 months to two years – all to run consecutively – such was the depravity and prolonged nature of his crimes.
The court heard that offending began in the family home when the defendant was 14 years old.
The older of his two victims described a pattern whereby her brother would enter her bedroom at night; sometimes she woke when he was entering her bed and made an excuse to get out, but more frequently she awakened to find him touching her intimately.
This, Antrim Crown Court heard, happened two or three times a week over a period of four years.
Judge McCormick read to the court how the victim remembers living in “a constant state of fear and worry at night times”.
“This went on for years….I remember feeling extremely confused. What are you doing to me? There would be times I would be sore and achey after what he had done to me.”
Reading from a victim impact statement, the judge said: “As the oldest girl in the house, I felt an immense need to try and protect the siblings from him. She says she spent a lot of time growing up worrying about the younger siblings. She feels that she lost part of her childhood and was forced to grow up really quickly.”
In addition to carrying a lot of worry for herself and her siblings, she says she had “an almost constant feeling of being dirty because of what he would do to her at night”.
“Even as a young teenager she says she knew she couldn’t tell her mother what was happening and she said this was another burden that she felt she had to carry at that time.”
The judge said what happened to her as a child “played constantly on her mind when she looked at her own children growing up” and that it left her with “constant worries and fears for them, probably because she knew what could happen in a family home”.
In her adult life, she tended to see him only at family events – which couldn’t be avoided – and when she did see him “she always felt that fear she had of him as a child coming back”.
The court also heard how, after reporting her brother to police in 2018, all the “fears and feelings came rushing to the surface” once again.
She had a constant worry that she would bump into him and this affected her to the extent that she wouldn’t have gone to Tesco to do her shopping until night time, just in case she would see him.
The judge said the victim had trouble sleeping at night and was having “constant intrusive thoughts about him” and that this has continued since reporting him to police in 2018.
The victim added that she had hoped her brother would “do the right thing and plead guilty” but instead “he allowed us to go through the trial every day for weeks”, describing the experience as “traumatic”, having to re-live what happened to her and being made to “feel like a liar at every turn”.
She believes her brother “stole her childhood from her”.
A younger sister – who would have been an eight-year-old when the abuse began – was subjected to it, on average, three or four times a week, however, unlike her older sister, this abuse continued after her brother left home and got married.
The court heard how this victim reported regular disturbing recollections of what happened with her brother when trying to go to sleep at night.
Judge McCormick said there were a number of aggravating features in relation to these abuses of his siblings.
She referenced the young age of his victims and the type of offending that occurred; the frequency and the duration of the offending against the individual victims – four years in respect of [one sister], and six-and-a-half in respect of [the second sister].
Said Judge McCormick: “This is offending which occurred in the family home, the place where these two young girls should have felt most safe. They were particularly vulnerable because much of this abuse occurred in their bedrooms and, indeed, while they were asleep.”
A third victim, aged between 14 and 16, was indecently assaulted at some time between January 1998 and September 2001, when the defendant was aged between 41 and 43.
The defendant, who was known to the girl at the time, also knew the family’s routine and that the victim’s mother was out at bingo at the time he arrived at their house at the time of the incident.
Judge McCormick outlined how he and his victim went into the living room where he spoke to her and gave her advice on her posture.
He complimented her on her breasts. He pulled the blinds and moved her to a part of the living room away from the windows before kissing her and touching her breasts. He then knelt down in front of her and attempted to carry out a sexual act but he desisted when she made an excuse.
His demeanour changed immediately and he warned her not to tell anyone what they had been doing or, he said, “her father would shoot him and her father would be sent to prison”.
The victim described how her abuser “changed her life”.
Judge McCormick said: “He secured her silence by postulating a reaction on the part of her father which would lead to the father’s imprisonment.”
For this crime, the defendant was sentenced to two years in prison, which would run consecutively against the five other sentences of 18 months and 21 months in relation to the sexual abuse of his sisters.
He was also handed an indefinite Sexual Offences Prevention Order with a number of strict conditions he will have to abide by upon his release.