Northern Ireland news

Woman traumatised by Omagh bomb as child given suspended jail sentence for perverting course of justice

Police and firefighters in the aftermath of the Omagh bomb in 1998. Picture by Paul McErlane/PA Wire

A woman left traumatised after being caught up in the Omagh bomb as a child has been given a suspended prison sentence for perverting the course of justice through claims made about an ex-partner.

Loni Duffy (30), from Brookmount Heights in Omagh, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to police in July 2015 alleging that the man had verbally abused her and attempted to damage her baby's pram.

While Judge Stephen Fowler deemed the charge serious, he accepted Duffy had suffered considerably as a result of the 1998 bomb when she was just nine years old, and latterly at the hands of her former partner, with whom there was a significant history of domestic violence.

A prosecution lawyer told Dungannon Crown Court that Duffy contacted police claiming her ex-partner had approached her in Omagh bus station and attempted the rip the cover from the pram.

She said a non-molestation order was in place, banning any contact with her.

Police contacted the man and he attended voluntarily for interview. He accepted being in Omagh bus station at the time and making brief eye contact with Duffy, but was adamant nothing else occurred physically, verbally or in respect of the pram.

He suggested CCTV was checked and this corroborated his account.

Duffy meanwhile contacted police to say she wished to make a statement of withdrawal, but she was later spoken to and advised an investigation was underway in respect of perverting the course of justice.

The prosecution said while the matter was discovered early, consideration had to be given to Duffy knowingly making a false allegation of a nature to which police, given the past history of domestic abuse involving the ex-partner, would sympathetic to her.

A defence lawyer said his client had accepted her guilt from the outset and a trial was averted.

He described Duffy as “having a very difficult background and highly vulnerable, but utterly dedicated to her child”.

Judge Fowler said: “This is a very unique case which would normally attract immediate custody. Perverting the course of justice strikes at the very heart of the justice system… But there are factors to be considered, not least the defendant being caught up in the Omagh bombing. That was significant trauma for a child.”

He imposed a sentence of 12 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months.

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