By DONAL McMAHON
A WEST Cork resident has been given a nine-month suspended sentence for confessed historical child abuse of a five-year-old boy in south Armagh.
Vincent O’Grady (49) with an address given of ‘Rosscrenna South, Rosscarbery’, had previously faced two trials at Newry Crown Court, and was found not guilty on multiple charges of indecent assault and attempted buggery, on dates from 1985 to 1995.
A previous absolute reporting restriction on the case was lifted to be able to identify O’Grady as the plea and sentencing concluded at Newry Crown Court.
After Her Honour Judge Melody McReynolds gave her sentencing, there were shouts from the gallery of ‘shame on you … you have to wake up to that paedophile everyday’ directed at O’Grady’s supporters.
Hotel worker O’Grady had been rearraigned on separate charges of indecent assault on the young boy, and pleaded guilty to three charges on a single ‘incident’ on October 8, 1985 when he was 17 years old.
The defendant was acquitted on four similar charges, with two further child abuse charges left on the books on dates from 1985 to 1990, when he would have faced charges as a man over 18.
Married man O’Grady had initially attended an arranged PSNI interview at the beginning of the investigation in Newry in 2015.
The then-suspect submitted a pre-written statement to officers and provided a ‘no comment’ interview. At the beginning of the trial, there were understood to be 14 witnesses to come forward for the prosecution.
The accused had been released from remand at Maghaberry prison in December 2015, on £5,000 bail, despite objections from a PSNI detective.
O’Grady failed to return to Newry Crown Court on January 4th of this year for sentencing, with a new date of Friday last arranged to settle the case.
Prosecution outlined the details of the abuse which showed that O’Grady had persisted in his sexual abuse of the young boy as the injured party attempted to evade him during the ‘incident’.
The court heard that the small boy had been left ‘confused, frightened and distraught’ by O’Grady’s abuse.
Defence outlined that the guidelines for sentencing had involved ‘extremely tortuous legislation’ in which his client should be given credit for his confession rather than being ‘caught red-handed’.
‘In the eyes of the law he (O’Grady) was a child, there was low culpability,’ said defence.
‘There has been 32 years of a flux in time since,’ the barrister added.
The barrister also stated that O’Grady was intoxicated at the time of the abuse and had little memory of events.
The sexual abuse of the boy had left the injured party, now a married father, with ‘significant and everlasting effects’.
Probation services in Cork had engaged with O’Grady, the court heard, and assessed him as being of low risk of reoffending. The defendant had voluntarily attended counselling in the south, with defence claiming, ‘there is nothing they (probation service) can do with Mr O’Grady, he doesn’t need any help’.
‘It is not as if he sails off to the big blue yonder,’ said the defence barrister, referring to his client’s engagement with counselling.
A detailed victim impact statement was accepted into the court records, with Judge McReynolds stating that it ‘seldom helps to read out in court, as the perpetrator can hear the effects’ of their crime on another person.
The judge outlined that if O’Grady had been found guilty following a trial, he would have faced up to 10 months in prison. Credit for pleading guilty allowed the now-convicted child abuser to walk free with a nine-month sentence suspended for three years, after he had ‘accepted the truth of the allegations’.
O’Grady had received references of a being a man of ‘good humour’ and ‘generous’ from an employer, landlady and college friends, all of whom had been made aware of his offending.
Judge McReynolds said that O’Grady may now be added to the children and vulnerable adults barred list, with a view that the sentencing was of ‘rehabilitation over retribution’.