Finnegan trial stumbles again as second witness gives evidence
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
THE trial of a former scout leader accused of 70 counts of historical sex abuse against four boys came to an abrupt halt during its second week when a juror was taken ill.
Wednesday's incident, which saw paramedics called to the courthouse, caused the case against Colin Finnegan to be adjourned until yesterday (Monday), when the trial was resumed minus the juror in question.
Finnegan, whose address has been given to the court as being in the non-existent Stonehill Mews - understood by the Democrat to, in fact, be Sloan Hill Mews - in Lurgan, denies all 70 charges against him.
The 43-year-old, who spent most of his life in Bessbrook, is accused of a full spectrum of sex abuse dating between 1982 and 1997. The case was brought by four complainants, all of whom are now in their 30s.
During its second week, the trial heard evidence from Complainant Two, who claims to have suffered systematic sexual abuse by Finnegan. Although the charges are dated from 1986 - when the witness would have been 11 - until 1991, the witness told the court he could not be sure of exactly when the alleged abuse started but that, on reflection, he believes it may have been when he was around 13.
The complainant claims that the abuse began when, despite the witness having not been a scout at the time, Finnegan took him to Bessbrook Scout Hall on the pretext of checking that the garage doors below it had been locked. The court heard that Finnegan used his own key to unlock the hall and take the boy inside. The witness told the court that the pair played a game of 'dare', which soon took on a sexual slant and that mutual inappropriate touching, initiated by Finnegan, took place.
Telling the court that he was subjected to similar abuse in the Scout Hall on two or three further occasions over the space of about a year to a year-and-a-half, the witness went on to describe incidents of abuse he claims happened at the rear of an empty house in Bessbrook - when he would have been aged around 13 and Finnegan around 19 - as well as at, what was then, a football pitch.
Alleged incidents in a red van and, subsequently, a blue car, as well as in a caravan, all of which were parked behind Finnegan's house, were also described. The witness told the court this was where the majority of abuse occurred and that it included a specific incident of attempted buggery and another of oral abuse.
Incidents said to have happened at Camlough Lake and in the area of Camlough mountain were also detailed. The witness told the court that, while en route to Camlough Lake, Finnegan let him drive and advised him not to over-steer telling him: "That's what (another of the complainants) done."
The witness said the abuse ended before he reached the age of 16, adding that he'd kept silent because: "I was just embarrassed.
I thought there was something wrong with me . . . I was ashamed."
During intense cross-examination, at one stage of which the witness broke down, defence accused him of concocting all events, pointing out discrepancies between his fresh evidence and that given at the previous, aborted, trial.
It was put to the witness that he'd changed certain details, including how and when he'd met Finnegan. It was also suggested that he'd remembered Finnegan's van was red only after becoming aware of the evidence of another complainant.
“You picked it (the colour of the van) up from (another complainant's) story and assimilated it into to your own," defence asserted, to which the witness replied: "No".
The fact that Finnegan didn't pass his driving test until March 1991 - with the witness claiming he was driven to areas outside Besbrook by him in the late 80s - was pointed out.
A compensation application also came under intense scrutiny, with defence accusing the witness of attempting to "mislead" the previous jury about whether one had been lodged.
The witness maintained that, while he had signed a form, the application had not, to his knowledge, been lodged, telling the court he'd been advised it could not be without him having also gone through counselling and other procedures needed to make the claim.
Telling the court he didn't actively seek out information about compensation but was advised of it by his solicitor without enquiring himself, the witness said: "This wasn't about money. I don't think anyone would go through this for money."
Refuting a series of defence assertions that no abuse had ever taken place, and that Finnegan had never been with him in places where it's alleged abuse occurred, the witness said: "He was. And he knows he was."
The trial is expected to continue throughout March.
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