Northern Ireland

Former scout leader Colin Finnegan jailed for abusing boys

A former scout leader has been jailed for 11 years for sexually abusing five children at different times over a 15-year period.

Colin Finnegan, 44, of Sloan Hill Mews, Lurgan, County Armagh, was found guilty in October of 59 sex offences.

His sentence is subject to an automatic 50% remission.

The judge told Finnegan, it was "chilling to note you still maintain your denials and consider yourself the victim".

The Belfast Crown Court judge said that this "stance has exacerbated the damage" caused to his four known victims, and it can only be hoped that "the jury verdicts go some way to helping them recover".

Last month, following a third trial, Finnegan was found guilty of 59 charges, at the end of a 12-day trial.

Two other trials in Newry had to be aborted earlier this year for legal reasons.

The judge said that the first date on the charges against him was in January 1982, when he himself would have been 12, and the last, when he would have been aged 28, a 16-year period.

The first of his victims, the court heard was unknown, but that Finnegan went on and "preyed" on four other victims.

The judge told Finnegan he had "repeatedly used them for your own sexual gratification. You started when you were a child yourself, but continued into your mid-twenties.

Befriended

"You corrupted these four men when they were young and in each case robbed them of their innocence and childhood. You contested the charges and accused them of a conspiracy in colluding to give evidence against you," he said, adding that his sentences for abusing them while he was a youngster himself, would be concurrent to each other, but made to run consecutive to those for his adult offending.

The judge said that each of victims gave similar accounts, of first being "befriended by the defendant who was known to them as an older youth" connected to Bessbrook scout hall.

"Each victim," added the judge, "described being taken, on some pretext, to the hall" where they were then sexually abused.

On other occasions Finnegan, who was also put on the Sex Offenders' Register for life, would take them out in a van, and later in a car.

Three of his victims also described being abused in fields close to where he lived.

The judge said that the offences had "seriously impacted" on the lives of Finnegan's victims, leaving them feeling vulnerable, anxious, with deep-rooted signs of trauma coupled, in some cases, with emotional and psychological problems.

Some of his victims spoke outside the court.

One of them said: "I am speechless but I am also happy that I can now get on with my life from today.

"I wish he could have got more but that is the justice system that we have to deal with.

"He committed a number of those offences against us when we were children and he was a child and was how the judge had to deal with some of those offences. But overall I am happy that he has been jailed for 11 years.''

Another spoke of the "ordeal'' of having to go through three trials in front of a jury.

"We had to go through every detail of what happened to us in three trials and also three cross examinations which was very difficult and traumatic," he said.

"It has been a difficult year, but I am relieved it is over and I can move on with my life.''

A third victim said: "It is farcical for him to claim that he has been a victim. He is still in denial at what he has done.''

The victims all praised the investigating police officer for bringing the case to court.

They described her as the "motivator for us".