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Gerard McKenna: Belfast man jailed for abducting and raping girl (12) appeals conviction

Gerard McKenna’s challenge to being convicted of attacking the 12-year-old victim at a beauty spot near Belfast is listed for a hearing early next year

Alan ErwinBelfast Telegraph

A man jailed for abducting and raping a schoolgirl can mount a bid to clear his name before prosecutors seek to have him locked up for longer, the Court of Appeal confirmed today.

Gerard McKenna’s challenge to being convicted of attacking the 12-year-old victim at a beauty spot near Belfast is listed for a hearing early next year.

A cross-appeal is being taken in the same case by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS). The authority contends that the prison terms imposed on the 30-year-old and his 26-year-old co-accused Paul Sheridan were unduly lenient.

In October this year, the pair were jailed for the abduction and rape of the vulnerable girl and sexual assault of her 15-year-old friend.

The victims were attacked on the Lagan towpath two days before Christmas in 2019. A jury heard the girls were plied with vodka and offered cocaine during the incident.

Sheridan, from Hillfoot Crescent in Ballynahinch, pleaded guilty to rape, sexual assault and child abduction. He received a sentence of six-and-a-half years.

McKenna, originally from the Whiterock area of west Belfast, protested his innocence. After being convicted of rape, sexual assault, child abduction and offering to supply a Class A drug, he was handed a nine-year sentence.

Gerard McKenna

The PPS has referred both sentences to the Court of Appeal to determine if they were too lenient.

At a review hearing today, it was decided that McKenna’s appeal against conviction will go first.

Defence lawyers set out details of transcripts from the trial being sought as part of the challenge.

Listing McKenna’s case for hearing in February, Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan indicated that the PPS reference will be “paused until we see what happens in the conviction appeal”.


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