Pensioner's teenage rapist named

Published Friday, 17 January 2014
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A teenager, who raped a pensioner months before her death, can be named after failing in an attempt to have his identity protected.

Pensioner's teenage rapist named
It was ruled that it was in the public’s interest for McGreechan to be named. (© Getty)

Senior judges ruled the Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction to hear Ryan McGreechan's appeal against an order lifting reporting restrictions in the case.

But even if legal authority had existed the challenge would have been refused as the interests of open justice were held to firmly outweigh his right to anonymity.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "The nature of the crime and the assessment that the offender was dangerous, were particularly significant."

McGreechan, now aged 18, is serving an eight-year prison sentence for the sex attack on a 76-year-old woman in his hometown of Newtownards, Co Down.

He was aged 15 when he entered the victim's home in March 2011 and raped her.

The woman died later that year.

In July 2012 a Crown Court decided that McGreechan could be named, despite still being a juvenile at the time.

He said it was in the public interest for his identity to be known due to the gravity of his crimes.

The teenager's legal team then secured an injunction to block publication of his details until the appeal was heard.

We have explained why we had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal, but if we had been asked to interfere with the decision... we would have refused to do so.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan

Ruling on McGreechan's challenge, Sir Declan pointed out that the only order protecting his identity was one drawn up at a Youth Court hearing in January 2012.

The move was not in keeping with the relevant legislation, the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, because it only provides anonymity for complainants.

Although McGreechan could still rely on a statutory prohibition on naming him as a juvenile under the Criminal Justice (Children) Order 1998, this only applied to the Youth Court proceedings.

Once the case transferred to the Crown Court no further reporting restriction order was made.

In the appeal hearing counsel for McGreechan claimed there was a wider interest in maintaining his anonymity.

He argued that it was also about protecting society by ensuring he becomes properly reintegrated into society.

But lawyers for the BBC contended that it could threaten the media's ability to report on cases fully and contemporaneously if the rapist was not named.

The seriousness of the teenager's crimes should feature in the balance between public interest and the welfare of the child, it was contended.

In the end Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Coghlin, held that there was no jurisdiction for the appeal.

As McGreechan listened to the verdict via a video-link with Hydebank Young Offenders' Centre, the court also dealt with the position of children in the criminal justice system.

Sir Declan referred to local legislation and the relevant international human rights standards which state the primary focus must be on child welfare and rehabilitation.

Countering this was the public interest in full disclosure on someone convicted of such serious sexual offences.

Acknowledging the argument that publication of McGreechan's name could act as a deterrent to others, Sir Declan added: "In our view the balancing exercise in this case came down firmly in favour of open justice.

"The nature of the crime and the assessment that the offender was dangerous, were particularly significant.

"We have explained why we had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal, but if we had been asked to interfere with the decision... we would have refused to do so."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Teggy in Co.Down wrote (374 days ago):
Offenders of crimes such as this should have no right to be anonymous, a danger to everyone. Funny how he was in my year in school aswell.
Belfast girl in Belfast wrote (375 days ago):
So this disgusting person gets a sentence of 8 years!! He will then be allowed back out into society where he can possibly do the same all over again!! Our justice system is a complete and utter disgrace. How can anyone possibly do something like this to any woman let alone a pensioner. Makes me sick to the pit of my stomach!!
Newtownards in Newtownards wrote (375 days ago):
This coward does not deserve to reintegrated into society, my Great Aunt deserved to live her remaining years with dignity and respect, not terrified by what this evil coward did. He got 8 years and then will get a new start, her family got a life sentence.
Lorry in belfast wrote (375 days ago):
People who do the crime should be named no matter what the crime is
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