A County Armagh woman who sexually assaulted her nephew, who was no older than seven at the time, and secretly recorded other family members has been handed a three year sentence.
The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to 17 charges, which included two counts of sexual assault of a child under 13; a single count of gross indecency with a child; and seven counts each of voyeurism and taking or making indecent images of a child.
All were committed between 31 December 2006 and 29 April 2015. Her co-accused was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment in 2019.
In passing sentence on what he described as a “highly exceptional” case, His Honour Judge Gordon Kerr QC, stated that given the nature of the offences, the starting point was nine years imprisonment.
However, given a series of mitigating factors, in particular, that she “was under coercive control of the co-defendant at all times relating to this offending”, the 34-year-old walked free from Newry Crown Court on Thursday.
Judge Kerr, informing the court of his decision, said it was “not appropriate to put her back in custody” giving her need to begin treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the fact she had already spent 255 days in custody in 2019.
The defendant who, according to a slew of medical evidence, presents with a personality disorder, which manifests itself “in an excessive clinging behaviour and a need to be taken care of”, was forced into committing these crimes by her co-accused who engaged in typical “grooming behaviours”.
Judge Kerr added that while “there is a compelling public interest in imposing significant sentences for sexual offences against children” the defendant pleaded guilty and that she “exhibits considerable and genuine remorse”.
In summarising the case, Judge Kerr said the offending came to light following a search of the property in September 2015, where police recovered almost 3,000 indecent images, which the defendant’s co-accused took responsibility for.
Among the evidence were images of the defendant carrying out a sexual act on her nephew, who was aged between five and seven at the time. There were also images of the defendant deliberately removing the clothes from a sleeping child.
In a statement one of the young victims said the defendant “made her do things she didn’t want to do and told her not to tell anyone”.
She said the defendant “called her into her room and locked the door to make her do the acts” and that she was “petrified of the consequences” if she were to tell anyone.
Further evidence pertained to family members showering and in various states of undress. In one incident, the defendant can be seen in the footage setting up the camera.
The defendant maintains her actions “were solely to meet the demands of her co-defendant”, that “she was fearful he would carry out threats that he made” and that he was going to reveal sexualised recordings of her carrying out assaults on family members.
The court also heard that the co-accused also threatened to harm the defendant’s nephew if she refused to take part in the behaviour.
The court also heard how the defendant has been diagnosed as suffering from Stockholm syndrome – where victims develop positive feelings toward their captors or abusers – and is herself a victim of slavery and trafficking at the hands of her ex-partner.
Judge Kerr ordered that the three year sentence be split between 255 days in prison (already served) and 840 days on licence.
He also imposed a seven year Sexual Offences Prevention Order on the defendant.
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