Father 'shouldn't get jail' for abuse

Father 'shouldn't get jail' for abuse

A father who admits beating and neglecting four of his children who were sexually abused by their mother and others should not be jailed when he is sentenced next month, a court has heard.

His lawyer, and indeed counsel for three of the others, told Mr Justice Horner at Belfast's Crown Court on Tuesday that while the custody threshold was crossed, the public interest could be served by suspending any jail term.However, prosecuting QC Charles MacCreanor, said there were a number of aggravating features in the case, the number of victims, the multiplicity of offences, which were carried out over a considerable period of time, albeit, nearly 30 years ago.He added, the circumstances of the offending should also be taken into account, and that any sentence imposed should have an element of deterrence.Last week the court heard of the horrific abuse and cruelty meted out to the children - a boy and his three younger sisters when they were between eight and 11 - by their parents, uncles and two other men, who visited their rodent-infested Co Down home.Although finally taken into care, some still suffered beatings at the hand of their father.The father and mother have both admitted 17 charges of child cruelty, while the mother has also admitted six charges of gross indecency against a child.The four other men, including two of the children's uncles, have also pleaded guilty to a number of offences including assault, indecent assault and gross indecency.Patrick Lyttle QC for the children's father, revealed that the allegations of abuse were first investigated in the 1990s, but the authorities at the time ordered that no further action be taken.He pointed out, and again echoed by other counsel, his and their guilty pleas were of great comfort to the now grown children who had been save the ordeal of a lengthy and upsetting trial.The court heard the mother and father had eloped when they both were intellectually little more than children themselves.The lawyer said the man grew up in a culture and environment were violence and physical discipline was received and accepted, and this is where he learned to look after and bring up his children.Mr Lyttle argued that the man made his plea on the basis that he should not be subjected to an immediate custodial sentence, and that it should be suspended, adding it was not a case where there should be a deterrent sentence as all sentences already had an element of deterrence in them.Mr Grey Berry QC said the former RUC man accused of indecent assault, gross indecency towards a child and common assault had led "a blameless life" but for turning to drink through the stresses of his work as a policeman at the height of the Troubles, and his unfortunate engagement with the mother of this troubled family.Mr Berry said that while the offending took place when he was aged between 23 and 26, the now 53-year old former reservist unequivocally admitted his guilt, something which he "personally" found it difficult to do and had demonstrated "remorse and regret".The policeman had, he added, spared his victims of a lengthy trial where personal matters would have come under the microscope.The court had heard that the man admits sexually touching one girl over her clothing and punching another, while in another case the woman got her son to watch as they had sex.Mr Berry said that in the circumstances, the defendant's was a low form of culpability which, taken separately, would not mean consecutive sentences because the threshold for custody has simply not been passed.Frank O'Donoghoe QC, for the other defendant not related to the children, described his involvement as an "isolated drunken incident, the immediate shock and disgust of which made him give up drink" and that initially he was "too ashamed to admit his guilt" when arrested.Mr O'Donoghoe said that since then, reports showed that the man had shown empathy and remorse and that his guilty plea has been a significant benefit to the prosecution and avoided the need of the victim to give evidence against the accused in circumstances where it would have been a difficult and harrowing experience.David Hopley QC, representing one of the children's uncles, said while there were a number of factual inaccuracies in the pre-sentence report on him, he too unequivocally and fully accepts his involvement for which he has shown remorse, and in so doing has spared his victims having to give evidence.The offences, said the lawyer, occurred over three decades ago when he was in his mid-30s, and under the guidelines the maximum sentence would be up to four years on a contest.He argued, however, that in historic cases such as this, sentences should be fact-specific.Mr Peter Irvine QC, for the last of the accused - the children's other uncle who faces one charge involving his nephew who was forced to watch as he and his sister had sex - claimed that given the lapse in time and the fact that he has demonstrated victim empathy, the custody threshold had not been crossed in his case.Mr Irvine said that the pensioner, a one-time alcoholic who is now on the wagon, does not present a danger to children and shows little likelihood of re-offending or of being a risk of serious harm to the public.The lawyer said that the court could take a "wholly exceptional course when dealing with him" and that he was someone unique in the circumstances of this case.Mr Irvine told Mr Justice Horner than in the circumstances, he was "going to be bold and suggest that you give him some form of discharge".


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