Man, 67, jailed for abusing three girls

DERRY Bishop's Street Court house

A 67-year-old man from County Londonderry, who was found guilty of sexually abusing three girls, has been sentenced to ten and a half years.

Gerald O'Hara, from Beech Road in Drumsurn near Limavady, was found guilty in June, but sentenced on Friday.

The abuse started in August 1978 when the children were at primary school and continued over a 15-year period.

O'Hara was also found unanimously not guilty of nine other similar charges.

He will spend eight and a half years in prison and two years on probation.

The court was told he still maintains his innocence and his family members support him in his continuing denials.

He was also placed on the sex offender's register for life and will be subject to the terms of a sexual offences protection order for five years after his prison release.

O'Hara had previously been convicted at an earlier trial of eight of the total of 23 charges but following his re-trial after he appealed his original convictions, he was convicted of 14 of the charges.

The abuse took place in the vicinity of the O'Hara's family home.

'Appalling'

When he was questioned about the allegations in April and May 2014, O'Hara denied them and said he was sickened by what he was being accused of.

The judge said that "having read the victim impact statements from the three women, there was no doubt O'Hara's abuse has had a profound effect on them".

He said the abuse "represented a serious breach of trust and involved a degree of planning and of pre-meditation".

The judge said that following the conviction last month, O'Hara was "driven out of his home village of Drumsurn".

"His car was set on fire and people threatened to burn down his family home," he said.

"It seems there are still occasional threats being made against him.

"This court strongly disapproves of such behaviour and recognises that this is an additional matter that the defendant will have to endure."

'No remorse'

The judge described O'Hara's abuse as "appalling".

"One can only conclude that it was done simply for his own self-gratification and pleasure", he said.

He said one of O'Hara's victims said he smiled as he abused her on a regular basis.

"It is clear that he has no remorse for all that he has done, although that is no excuse for the way in which he has been treated following his convictions", he said.

The judge said in determining the sentence, he also had to take into consideration the delay in prosecuting O'Hara.

As well as being jailed for ten and a half years, O'Hara was disqualified from ever working with children.

He is also banned from contacting his three victims and banned from unsupervised contact or communication with children under the age of sixteen.

He must, after he has been released from jail, not deny the police access to his home.

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