Scout leader abuse sentence “unduly lenient” – Director of Public Prosecutions

February 10, 2014

A former Bessbrook scout leader who subjected four boys to systematic sexual abuse over a 16 year period received an unduly lenient sentence and should have been jailed for up to three years longer, according to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Barra McGrory QC was speaking at an appeal hearing last Friday where he was applying to have Colin Finnegan’s 11 year sentence increased.

44 year old Finnegan, now with an address at Sloan Hill Mews, Lurgan, was unanimously convicted last October of a total of 54 separate offences, while in a further five offences, the jury returned majority guilty verdicts of 11 to one.

The 59 charges relate to five victims and began with one unnamed boy in January 1982, who was abused while camping at Gosford, County Down. The indecent assaults continued for another two years, until the boy was 14.

Four of his other victims gave evidence of being abused by Finnegan in Bessbrook Scout Hall, his van or other vehicle, in fields, in a caravan behind his then home, and in derelict buildings.

The abuse took place while the boys were aged nine or ten until they were 14 or 15.

Some of Finnegan’s offences were committed when he was a youth himself and covered the 16-year period when he was aged between 12 and 28.

However, Mr McGrory argued that Finnegan was entitled to no credit having continued to abuse into adulthood.

He told the court Finnegan targeted his victims with drugs and alcohol.

“This was a scout leader who was entrusted to look after these boys,” he said.

“There’s a background of a very serious abuse of trust and a systematic, comprehensive abuse of children in his case.”

Any benefit from carrying out some of the offences as a child was lost when he persisted into his 20s, Mr McGrory said.

“There is absolutely no remorse, he fought this case to the bitter end,” he added.

“These injured parties were put through the trauma of these trials.”

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, who heard the appeal alongside Lord Justice Girvan and Mr Justice Weatherup, asked if the director believed Finnegan should have received a 14-year jail term – to which Mr McGrory QC replied, “It shouldn’t be any less,”

“The totality of these offences would require sentencing in the range of 14 years” he added.

Defence counsel argued that each of the 59 counts Finnegan was convicted of did not relate to separate incidents.

A total of 18 incidents happened while he was a child and a further six after he turned 18.

Judgement was reserved.