The mother of a child who was sexually assaulted by a County Armagh man has spoken out after he walked free from court this week.
Cahill McDonald, with an address in Forkhill, appeared before Newry Crown Court on Wednesday for sentencing after being found guilty of sexual assault on a child under 13.
The 33-year-old faced two charges of sexual assault of a child under the age of 13 and denied both charges. However, a jury had found him guilty on the first charge and acquitted him of the second.
McDonald was given an enhanced combination order, which included 60 hours of community service and a probation order for a period of three years.
The judge also required McDonald to be placed on the sex offenders register for five years and imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) for a period of seven years.
Following the sentencing, the mother of the child involved contacted Armagh I to speak out against the sentencing, which she said has offered no justice for the family.
She has not been named in order to protect the identity of the child.
“I can’t see how justice has been done in what he got,” she said. “I think he should have been put away.
“It’s just hard to fathom how somebody can be found guilty of sexually abusing a young child and then be allowed to go on about their life. It’s completely shocking.
“I know they put the SOPO on to monitor him, but nobody can be monitored 24 hours a day.”
For the family, the case was exacerbated by McDonald’s refusal to plead guilty.
“I don’t think there’s proper justice. For him to put my child through all that and to have to go through trial and to be examined by psychologists. They put my child through a year and a half of hell. If he would have even come forward and said he was guilty and not put the child through all that after already abusing him.
“It’s just hard to fathom. There is no justice in a child being sexually abused by a man and then for the man to just have to do 60 hours community service.
“He got that sentence because they said he wasn’t fit to do time. Well, he was fit to abuse my child.”
For her, perhaps the biggest injustice in the case is the fact that McDonald has been released back into the community, and will be living in close proximity to the victim.
She said: “The judge said that he is a medium to high risk of reoffending, and then set him back into our community. How that is justice I actually don’t know.
“I’ve seen him in my local shop…I think it’s just crazy that a convicted paedophile – who has been convicted – is let out. I think it’s ridiculous. How can you protect your children if you don’t know who’s living beside you?
“Who wants that in their community? He’s not meant to go near parks and playgrounds, but if people don’t know that he has that SOPO order, how are they to know to report him if he breaks his probation?
“I would like people to know who’s living around them and what the threat is.”
Above all, she wants to show other families that they should be unafraid to come forward and report sexual abuse. While the sentence did not fill her with confidence, she feels it is still important to speak out.
“I just want people to know if they come forward that they will be believed,” she said. “So many kids don’t tell, or are afraid they wont be believed. People have to listen. Children have to have their voices.
“The more people came forward, the more people would believe, the better chances that people have of getting justice.”
She added: “I would like other children to come forward and speak, because there’s such a thing about people being ashamed and embarrassed and not being believed.
“At my child’s young age he went on a stand, was cross examined, gave evidence and he won his own case because they believed him on a jury of 13.
“Luckily for me, my child and I have such a good relationship, he was able to tell me.
“It’s a very hard thing to prove, but I’m a great believer that if you just tell the truth, that the truth will prevail.”
She admitted: “It’s very hard to get closure. I don’t think it’s something you ever get over. My child’s life has changed to a certain degree. We won’t know until he’s older how it affects him, but there’s no doubt his life has changed forever. A certain amount of innocence has been taken away from him and the whole family, because we can’t trust anybody now.
“It’s something we just have to learn to live with. But it seems to be that the victim is the one who pays the price for it, not the guilty.
“At least my child’s voice has been heard. People saw him, they heard him, and they believed him, and maybe, please God, someday he will be able to live with that fact and move on with his life.”
The family say that they owe a huge thanks to the victims’ support agencies that assisted them through the process.
She concluded: “They helped us the whole way through this, they came to court with us and spoke to us numerous times….The support network is fantastic. If you come forward, you do be believed. People believe you and they hear you.”