Man pleads guilty to sexually abusing foster child

The court heard that the child had been fostered to live with the defendant, his wife and their two young children and said she regarded him as "her father''

A Co Down foster father has been jailed for four years for sexually abusing a young girl placed in his care.

Passing sentence at Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, Judge Stephen Fowler QC told the 71-year-old that the abuse of the victim from primary school age was a "gross breach of trust''.

The former security guard, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his foster victim, was due to stand trial in June charged with rape and sexual assault.

But ten days before his trial to due start, he was re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent assault, two of gross indecency and one charge of inciting a child to commit an act of gross indecency.

He denied a charge of rape which was not proceeded with by the prosecution.

The court heard the offences were committed on dates between October 1984 and October 1991 when the victim was aged between five and 11.

Judge Fowler QC said there was a "significant age gap'' of 34 years between the defendant and his victim who is now a 36-year-old married woman.

The judge said the complainant had been fostered to live with the defendant, his wife and their two young children and said she regarded him as "her father''.

During police interviews in February 2015, the woman told police the "skin to skin'' sexual abuse took place at the family home in Bangor and also at a caravan they owned.

The court heard that the victim, who was accompanied by her ex-boyfriend, later confronted her foster father at his home in Bangor about the abuse. He replied to her: "I knew that this complaint was coming.''

In mitigation, the judge said he was taking into account the defendant's guilty plea to the charges, his clear criminal record, his age and his health problems.

He was sentenced to five years, with four in custody followed by one year probation.

Although the defendant was placed on the sex offenders register and barred from working with children and vulnerable adults, the judge said he did not believe it was appropriate to make him the subject of a Sexual Offenders Prevention Order (SOPO) "given the length of time since this offending and there was been no offending since''.

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