Northern Ireland

Coleraine abuse trial: Jury to retire on Wednesday

Coleraine courthouse
Image caption The jury at Coleraine Crown Court is expected to retire on Tuesday or Wednesday

The jury in the trial of three men accused of a string of sex offences against children will begin considering its verdict on Wednesday.

The alleged victims are a brother and sister who say they were sexually abused by their father, uncle and a family friend during the 1990s.

On Tuesday, Coleraine Crown Court heard the closing speeches of defence barristers for two of the accused.

The judge then gave legal direction to the jury.

It will be sent out on Wednesday to consider a verdict for each of the 56 charges which include rape, indecent assault, gross indecency and cruelty.

The defence barrister for the uncle told the jury it must not be "swayed by emotion and the horrific nature of the allegations made".

His client faces 10 charges connected to the alleged female victim including rape and indecent assault.

He said the only evidence that his client raped and abused his niece over a period of years is the account of the alleged victim. He went on "there is no supporting evidence".

He told the jury it is key that the mother of the alleged victims told the court that her daughter did not stay overnight with her father after March 1994.

The lawyer said that meant there was no possibility the alleged female victim could have been abused at parties by up to nine men between 1994 and 1997.

The court has already heard the couple separated in 1993.

Referring to access arrangements the defence barrister asked the jury if they really believed that this little girl would come home to her mother on a Sunday, "having been subjected to hell, having been raped by five or six men and her mother doesn't have an inkling something is going on?"

The defence barrister for the father of the two alleged victims asked the jury to take into account that the passage of time meant his client could not call on forensic or DNA evidence to prove the allegations are false.

'Economical with the truth'

His client faces 38 charges of abusing his son and daughter.

The barrister questioned why his client's daughter, one of the alleged victims, was "economical with the truth" when she first made allegations about her father in 1998 to social services and the police.

He asked why she did not reveal all the details of the abuse that have been outlined during the trial.

The lawyer said his client, when interviewed by police in 1998, had told them to do a medical examination on his daughter "but this was not done".

And he added that the medical examination conducted for the trial provided no evidence the victim had been raped and abused repeatedly over a period of years "far from it" he said.

Concluding, he asked the jury to consider if allegations that emerged in May 2012 from two complainants, that do not tally with previous accounts and that are not supported by forensic or medical evidence - "can that satisfy you (the jury) beyond reasonable doubt?"

The judge then addressed the jury: "You are the sole judges of fact... you must not be swayed by sympathy or prejudice," he said.

He told the jury members they must consider the credibility and reliability of all the witnesses.

He said they must come to their judgement solely on the evidence and must take into consideration the impact of the delay in bringing these allegations.

He also warned them that they should not find two of the men, the father and uncle, guilty because they have admitted abusing their sister when she was a child.

He said they could take into account the sexual offences they have pleaded guilty to as something which perhaps shows a "propensity" to commit sexual offences against a member of the family who was a child and that it was a course of conduct over a period of time.

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