Child abusers unlikely to be allowed to return home

Published: 14 Jun 2012 13:000 comments

Two brothers at the centre of a child sex abuse scandal are unlikely to ever again darken the streets of Donagh following a successful court application yesterday (Wednesday) by Northern Ireland's most senior police officer.

There was a public outcry two years ago when Owen Roe and James Francis McDermott were allowed to return to the Fermanagh village where they and their brothers carried out decades of horrific child sex abuse.

Owen McDermott was charged with attempting to rape a girl, indecently assaulting her, physically assaulting her and threatening to kill her. He also faced two counts of indecently assaulting another girl and two of indecently assaulting one of the teenage boys allegedly abused by his brother.

James McDermott was charged with four counts of indecently assaulting a teenage boy and four of committing an act of gross indecency with the same boy. He was also accused of indecently assaulting a second boy and committing four acts of gross indecency with him.

However, a jury at Dungannon Crown Court found them unfit to face a criminal trial by reason of their mental incapacity, although it did find that they had committed the sexual acts complained of in the charges.

His Honour Judge David McFarland told them the Orders he was making were "therefore in no way a sentence or an attempt to punish you, but are rather focused on the need to protect the public from further harm".

He gave them Supervision and Treatment Orders for two years, the maximum period allowed under the law. The brothers were initially allowed to return to their home on the Moorlough Road in Donagh, provoking angry protests from their victims and neighbours. They then agreed to voluntarily admit themselves to a psychiatric hospital in Londonderry, but that sparked further controversy, with parents of other patients protesting at their presence on the ward.

Such was the outcry over the handling of the case that questions were even raised in the Assembly at Stormont, which in turn sparked two separate inquiries, one by the Department of Justice and the other by the Department of Health and Social Services.

Yesterday Judge McFarland not only renewed his Supervision and Treatment Orders, but on application from Chief Constable Matt Baggott, made a new, life-long, SOPO (Sexual Offences Prevention Order), which also extended the restrictions imposed on the brothers, in particular where they can live in the future.

Whilst not actually banning them from their home village, the Order granted to the police makes it impossible for the brothers to live anywhere "unless approved by their designated risk manager".

The other three restrictions still remain in place, namely that unless given approval, in the form of written permission, the brothers are prevented from having any contact or working with children under 16 years of age, or vulnerable adults. They are banned from St. Patrick's GAA Club in Donagh, unless in the constant presence of an approved adult, and from going anywhere near the local school, playground or play group in Donagh.

Owen Roe, who is now 55, and James, who is now 63, and two of their brothers were brought before the courts for what was eventually described as a reign of child sex abuse terror which had lasted for over 30 years.

Their elder brother, Peter Paul McDermott, hanged himself following the opening day of his trial.

In June 2010 their other brother, 62-year-old John McDermott was jailed for nine years when he pleaded guilty to 35 charges in relation to the sexual abuse of five children in and around Donagh, described at the time by Judge McFarland, as a village with a terrible secret, where children were forced to bare the brunt of a "brutal tidal wave of abuse".

John McDermott's sentence was extended by another six months last year, after he admitted sexually abusing a sixth victim.

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