Victims should come forward

A senior judge has urged victims of child sexual abuse to come forward with their complaints to the police.

Judge Piers Grant made the appeal at the Crown Court in Derry last week when he jailed a 60-year- old local man for seven years for the prolonged sexual abuse of his niece over a 12-year period starting in 1986 when she was aged four.

Grant said it was difficult for complainants to give their evidence in court, but he hoped with the assistance of special measures victims would find it easier to give their evidence.

"If those who are the victims of abuse find it easier to bring their complaints out into the open and if they are given support during the trial process, then more will feel confident enough to do so and more serious offenders will be convicted and sentenced," he said.

"I believe that that is already happening and that increasing numbers of victims of abuse are receiving justice," he said.

He added, "This, of itself, as illustrated by this case, should operate as a deterrent to others who are minded to commit such appalling offenses.

"They should know that victims of abuse, in the knowledge that they will be listened to, taken seriously and supported, are very much more likely to come forward, disclose abuse and give evidence securing convictions."

Grant described the offenses committed by the defendant against his niece as "serious invasions of a child's body."  He said the victim delayed reporting the abuse to the police until after her grandmother died in 2002.

A pre-sentence report stated that the abuser "poses serious risk of harm to children and there is a very real risk of him re-offending."

The abuser, whom the court was told believes the evidence in the case was fabricated and who still maintains his innocence, was also placed on the Sex Offender's Register for an indefinite period.
Derry Journal
Stylish Offense

A CO. Limerick businesswoman who was derided in a Sunday newspaper article after she won the best-dressed competition at the recent Punchestown racing festival is seeking legal advice on the matter.

In an article in the Irish Mail On Sunday, columnist Beibhinn Byrne wrote of how Kay Mulcaire, daughter-in-law of horse trainer Michael Hourigan, "has allowed herself become arm candy to be ogled in attention seeking clothes and prove herself in an entirely superficial way."

A successful businesswoman and mother of two, Mulcaire described her shock on reading the article.

"It's terrible. The other articles were so positive. I was shocked. I got phone calls about it. We are giving it to my solicitor," the former model said.

The article entitled “Judging women's looks like animals is demeaning -- and it's why we get so few of the top jobs,” refers to the best dressed competitions that are taking place at every racetrack in Ireland this summer as the "human Crufts (dog show)."
Limerick Leader
Treatment for Victims

THE sexual assault treatment unit at Waterford Regional Hospital treated four girls under 16 years old in 2009, a report reveals.

The youngest person treated was 14, while the oldest person treated was 64.
Of the 51 people who used the service last year, seven were aged between 16 and 18, and a total of 19 were aged between 18 and 25, bringing the average age to 27.

The majority of people seen were women, with only two males seeking treatment. Sunday was the busiest day for the unit, while September was the busiest month followed by March and June.

“There is no way of predicting what times or months are busiest, but we’ve always found the weekends busier, probably because people are out more and are at home more,” said Ann Scully, coordinator of the Waterford Rape Crisis Center.

She said the statistics also dispel the myth that most sexual assaults take place in a “dark alley by someone who is not known to the victim,” as only 16 of the 51 people reported that their assailants were strangers to them. One-third of the assaults took place in the person’s own home.

In all, 31 of the patients had reportedly consumed alcohol in the previous 12 hours, and three had taken illegal drugs.

All 51 of the victims reported the assault to Gardai (police) and consented to having a clinical examination carried out.

Minister for Health Mary Harney said the number of people attending sexual assault treatment units was probably just the tip of the iceberg, and she encouraged others who had been sexually assaulted or raped to avail of the services.
Waterford News & Star
Fury Over Legal Highs

A STRABANE shop owner withdrew stocks of so-called “party pills” from the shelves after community concerns.

Concern was expressed at a recent public meeting in Lisnafin, when one mother also revealed that the legal pills, called “Up All Night Party Pillz,” were for sale in local shops.

Following that meeting there was a joint appeal from both the community and political representatives.

The mother said that while she was aware the pills were perfectly legal, the fact that so little was known about the product was worrying. She added that she didn't believe they should be available over the counter, given the current societal climate of fear over legal highs.

One shop contacted by the Strabane Chronicle has withdrawn the pills from sale in light of community concerns.

A website selling the purple tablets describes them as "designed to give a great buzz, intense body feeling and heightened sensations by using a process called thermogenesis, which heats up the body to cause a shift in the metabolism.

Since the revelation that the party pills have been available in Strabane alongside everyday items such as bread and milk, politicians and community workers have called for a re-think from all shop owners.

Springhill community worker Paul Gallagher revealed that the tablets are available for as little as £2.65.

"I know these tablets are legal and I know they are only supposed to be sold to over-18s. But so is alcohol and there is always a younger element that gets their hand on that at the weekends," Gallagher said.

Similarly, Sinn Fein's Jarlath McNulty said the move by the shop owners was a positive one.

He said shop owners owed it to their communities to withdraw products such as party pills.

"Shopkeepers are not breaking the law by selling these products, but the concerns of the community must be taken on board," he said.
Strabane Chronicle
Staying Local to Shop

DONEGAL traders received a huge boost after it emerged there has been a massive slump in the number of shoppers heading north of the border.

According to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel, ASDA and Sainsbury's grocery stores in the North have seen their share of the Republic's grocery market collapse by 40% over the past year.

Both the British retail giants have stores in Strabane, Derry and Omagh, and their car parks have been filled with Donegal registered cars up until recently.

Such was the level of leakage to the North that traders in Letterkenny met with the county's TDs (members of Parliament) last October. At the time, they struggled to cope with the rise of cross border shopping and the high costs of doing business in the county.

However, their change in fortunes came about because shoppers decided to take advantage of the price war between retailers south of the border.

The rise in VAT in the North has also brought prices closer to what they are in Donegal, according to the manager of Kavanagh's SuperValu supermarket in Ballybofey.

Charlie Ferry is manager of SuperValu, and he says they have been waging a price war against the northern stores to woo back shoppers.

"Those figures are certainly great news for the retail grocery trade in Donegal.

"Our business is up 40% already which is nearly double what we were taking in last year," Ferry said.

"We have reduced our prices and the public has responded which is great as we also took on more staff during the up-turn. Last year we employed around 35 full and part-time staff. Now we employ 50.”

Ferry claimed the average difference in price in groceries between north and south last year was around 36%. Now, he says, the gap is down to less than 9%.

The current high price of fuel is also encouraging more people to shop local instead of driving to Derry and Strabane, Ferry added.
Donegal News