March 2010

Man sent to jail for abusing girl

A MAN has been jailed for seven years for repeatedly molesting a young girl.

Francis Maclean, 47, of Church View, Ottery St Mary, was found guilty of all seven charges at Exeter Crown Court. He was also put on the Sex Offender Register and given a Sex Offences Prevention Order, both until further notice.

He had been charged with 12 offences, but these were reduced to seven for the trial. Some were specimen counts, which meant they happened more than once. They involved sexually abusing a girl under 13 who was living in East Devon at the time.

The court heard Maclean had a long record of crime, including dishonesty and violence, but no previous convictions for sexual offences.

Judge Graham Cottle, sentencing him, said: “It is said by your learned counsel that this seems to have been buried by you. I doubt the memories for the victim have been buried.

“She is trying to move on with her life, but it is often only many years later that the consequences of abuse of children come to the surface and the impact is often very severe.”

Maclean remained calm with his hands behind his back, as he was sentenced. He leaned against the glass window of the custody box and shouted “Stay strong, I’ll call you, yeah?” to a woman in the public gallery as he was led away. She replied: “Cheers, babe.”

The jury unanimously found Maclean guilty, within hours of retiring to consider their verdict yesterday. He had pleaded not guilty to three offences of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and four of sexually assaulting the same youngster.

Prosecutor David Evans told the court how Maclean knew the girl and gained her trust before molesting her on some of the occasions when he saw her.

Defence counsel Rupert Taylor, after the verdict, said the defendant was in poor health and had a supportive girlfriend who had “saved his life” from alcoholism. He had a history of petty offending, which did not involve sexual crimes, but had always been a hard-working man.

Judge Cottle said he was not adjourning for reports. He said: “This man’s reaction, I know, is going to be, ‘it’s all lies, it’s complete rubbish’, so the report that emerges like that is not going to be helpful.”

Detective Constable Matt Bourne, officer in the case, spoke to the Echo after sentencing, to praise the victim.

Det Con Bourne, of the Child Abuse Investigation Unit in Exeter, said: “She showed great courage, at her age. She was video interviewed by police and gave live evidence to the court by video link.”