Scout sexual abuse trial loses a second jury member
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
THE trial of a former scout leader accused of 70 counts of historical sex abuse against four boys has lost its second juror in two weeks.
The trial - which has been hit by a series of setbacks, including the scrapping of the original hearing after its jury was dismissed for legal reasons - was once again halted when a juror revealed a previously undisclosed potential connection to the case.
The juror in question, who claimed to have been unaware of the matter, was discharged on Thursday. During the previous week of the trial another juror was discharged on medical grounds. After much deliberation, it was decided that the trial could continue with a 10-member jury.
The latest disruption came during the third week of the fresh trial, as Complainant Three was being cross-examined on his evidence. He told the court he suffered sustained serious sexual abuse from the age of about nine or 10 at the hands of Colin Finnegan, who now lives in Lurgan but spent most of his life in Bessbrook.
Finnegan is charged with 20 counts of abuse across the full spectrum against Complainant Three between 1986 and 1993. The complainant said the abuse began when he was a cub-scout and occurred on an almost weekly basis, ending before he turned 16.
The witness described alleged abuse in Bessbrook Scout Hall, which he said Finnegan brought him to when it was otherwise empty, as well as in a van, cars and a caravan. A one-off incident in Finnegan's brother's house, as well as multiple incidents in a field close to Finnegan's home and in Derramore Woods were also outlined by the witness. Abuse was also said to have occurred in locations outside Bessbrook, including the Camlough, Carlingford and Ravensdale areas.
Telling the court he had trusted and looked up to Finnegan as his scout leader and friend, the witness said:
“My understanding... he told me it was the normal thing that boys done. I believed him that this was a normal thing boys do."
The witness told the court the abuse had "hid" in his head in the intervening two decades since its end.
“All these incidents... there was like a wee box in the back of my head and they were all there," he said.
He explained that, when contacted by another of the complainants regarding the alleged abuse, he was initially angry that the events had been brought back into the forefront of his mind.
“I cried for days," he told the court. "I couldn't hide it again in my head because it had come out. For my own sanity I went ahead (with a complaint to police against Finnegan)."
During days of intense questioning by defence regarding time-frames and sequencing of events, the witness told the court he could not possibly remember every detail.
“I couldn't count how many times. I was abused that many times. I didn't calculate how many," he said.
As well as pointing out discrepancies between evidence given by Complainant Three at the first and this trial and between his fresh evidence, initial statement to police and an additional evidence statement made in the run-up to the original trial, defence also drew the court's attention to a conviction the witness received in May 1994, when he was 16.
It arose from the witness giving a false name to police who stopped him at a checkpoint while he was driving without having passed his test.
“I panicked," the witness told the court. "I said the first thing that came into my head."
The complainant repeatedly refuted persistent defence assertions that he was lying and had never been abused by Colin Finnegan, saying each time: "It happened, I was there."
The trial broke on Friday for the Bank Holiday weekend and resumed today (Tuesday) with the fourth complainant taking the witness box. A GP, police sergeant and a former girlfriend of one of the complainants are all expected to give evidence in the coming days and weeks.
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