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Sentencing delayed after paedophile foster father refuses prison Covid test

Sentencing in the case a man who carried out what a judge described as “a campaign of sexual abuse” against his foster-daughter has been delayed after he refused to take a covid test in prison

Aged in his sixties, the former council employee who cannot be identified to protect the victim, denied all allegations during police interview, only switching position on the morning his trial was to begin in Newry.

He admitted five counts each of sexual activity and penetration, as well as two counts of inciting sexual activity – all involving a child family member.

Offending spanned a five month period from May to September 2018.

Newry Crown Court heard the child first came to live with the defendant and his wife from a young age, and Judge Gordon Kerr QC remarked: “As a foster-carer, he knew he was dealing with particularly vulnerable children. He would have obtained knowledge of the victim from Social Services and had five years experience of her.”

The defence contended his client had “a long record of fostering children with his wife and there is no suggestion they were received into anything other than a loving, caring home. This was a clear aberration.”

While the victim’s relationship with her foster-mother became quite strained “the defendant was very supportive of her over the years, long before this happened. She was a troubled child, or she wouldn’t have been there.”

The judge enquired: “If the defendant was the one out of two foster-parents who gave her all support, does that not make the breach of trust even worse? This led to a reliance on him as a substitute father … The pre-sentence report shows he minimised matters by suggesting this was a relationship, and something in the child’s previous behaviour made it less of an offence.”

Now separated from his wife and largely estranged from his children, the defendant initially believed the victim had feelings for him “but now accepts he misconstrued that”.

The defence conceded admissions came late but stressed his client “wasn’t prepared to put the child through a trial. He is concerned for her well-being and takes full responsibility for his actions, which he describes as deplorable.

“He expresses hope for her resilience and with the right help she could get over this. He also regrets what he has put his family through … This conviction means future contact with all children will be closely monitored. He will never be allowed to foster again.”

Judge Kerr decided to take some time to consider sentencing but ordered the defendant into immediate custody as “there is only one outcome.”

The case was listed for Thursday however the defendant could not be produced on the video-link from Maghaberry Prison as he had refused to take a Covid test on arrival and was placed in isolation as a result.

His lawyers were in attendance ready to proceed, however, Judge Kerr refused stating: “Nothing can be done. The defendant cannot be produced and I do not intend to sentence him in his absence.”

The case has been adjourned until next month when it is anticipated the defendant will be out of isolation in prison and can appear by video-link.

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