SHOCKING | 

Man avoids jail after sexually assaulting daughter-in-law during visit to wife’s grave

The Co Down man, who can’t be named to protect the victim’s identity, was handed a 16-month sentence, suspended for three years

Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard the sexual assault was a culmination of a campaign of inappropriate behaviour on the pensioner’s part.

Ashleigh McDonaldBelfast Telegraph

A 70-year old who sexually assaulted his daughter-in-law whilst visiting the grave of his late wife has been spared jail.

The Co Down man, who can’t be named to protect the identity of the victim, was handed a 16-month sentence which was suspended for three years.

Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard the sexual assault committed on April 23 last year was a culmination of a campaign of inappropriate behaviour on the pensioner’s part.

Prior to imposing the sentence, Judge Geoffrey Miller KC was told by a Crown barrister that the incident occurred when the victim was visiting her mother-in-law’s grave.

Prosecutor Jonathan Connolly said both the defendant and his daughter-in-law had taken on caring responsibilities for the terminally ill woman before she passed away in 2020.

On April 23, 2021 the complainant was in the cemetery on the Ards Peninsula with two young relatives when her father-in-law arrived to leave flowers on his wife’s grave.

Mr Connolly said that after placing his flowers on the grave, the defendant stumbled and was assisted by his daughter-in-law.

As they then walked up the footpath, the defendant ground his groin against her, then sexually assaulted her both over and under her clothing.

He also told her that “while you were living in our house I just wanted to grab you from behind” and when she told him to stop it, he laughed and slapped her bottom before walking off to his car.

Mr Connolly said that the following day, the defendant called at her house and apologised for his behaviour at the cemetery.

She made a complaint to the police and the defendant was arrested. During interview, he initially denied any wrong-doing, but subsequently pleaded to a charge of sexual assault.

Defence barrister Conan Rea branded his client’s offending as “unsophisticated” and said the apology the day after the sexual assault was a clear indication of his remorse.

Mr Rea said that prior to his wife’s death, the defendant had cared for his wife with the help of his daughter-in-law, adding that he had a “lot of stresses in his life at the time”.

Saying this “did not excuse his conduct on the day in question”, Mr Rea said it was accepted there had been “some inappropriate conduct” before the incident at the grave.

The defence barrister concluded his submissons by pointing out his client had a clear criminal record.

Judge Miller accepted there was “an acknowledgement” by the defendant that he had engaged in “prior inappropriate behaviour” towards his daughter-in-law.

As well as imposing the suspended sentence, Judge Miller also placed the pensioner on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years and issued a five-year restraining order banning him from contacting the complainant.

He was warned that any further offending in the next three years could lead to the sentence being activated, before being told by the judge: “You can leave the dock now.”


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