Whithorn rapist jailed for seven years

A Whithorn community councillor who raped and abused young children more than 30 years ago has been jailed for seven years.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 17th March 2014, 12:15 pm
Francis O'Neil
Francis O'Neil

But as they left court, Francis O’Neill’s angry victims - who had waited so long for justice - dismissed the sentence as “a joke” after what they had been through.

A court heard that O’Neill, 61, had devoted himself to voluntary work after ill health forced him to retire early and had chaired his local community council.

But all the time he was hiding a dark secret which finally put him in the dock.

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A 39-year-old woman - who cannot be identified for legal reasons - told how O’Neill raped her when she was just seven years old.

And a 39-year-old man described how O’Neill made him perform sex acts while his car was parked in the Whithorn area.

O’Neill also sodomised him when he was just nine years old.

Jailing O’Neill at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday, judge Lady Wise said the woman had given a “compelling account” of what had happened to her.

“She trusted you, as an adult, and didn’t know the acts you committed were wrong,” said the judge.

O’Neill’s male victim had been bribed with money and cigarettes to keep silent, the court heard.

At the time - between 1979 and 1985 - O’Neill had been married with a child of his own and had taken advantage of other children playing in the area.

The abuse had been carried out with a degree of cunning, said Lady Wise.

O’Neill of 4 The Park, Whithorn, claimed his accusers were lying but a jury found him guilty of rape, sodomy, making the rape victim perform indecent acts and making sexual remarks to another 15-year-old girl.

Today, defence advocate Simon Gilbride said O’Neill continued to protest his innocence.

He said after O’Neill had been forced to quit his job he had worked for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and for a dog rescue service.

O’Neill had also been president of the Whithorn District Community Council until forced to resign.

Mr Gilbride said O’Neill suffered from “a myriad of physical complaints” angina, diabetes and breathing difficulties - all of which would make his time in prison more difficult.

His victims, who had waited for up to four years for today, had no sympathy and said the sentence wasn’t long enough.

The woman who was raped said: “I think it is a joke for victims after the anxiety and the stress and putting us through court.

“The whole process and the justice system absolutely sucks.”

The male victim added: “He abused me physically and mentally. The justice system has let us down big time.”