September 2022

Former Derry Deputy Mayor James McKeever jailed for sex abuse

A former deputy mayor of Derry was jailed for four years today for repeatedly sexually abusing a young girl over a seven year period

James McKeever – who was suspended from the SDLP when the sexual offences came to light – was found guilty by a jury in May of eight charges

The 64-year old, from Tamneyreagh Park in Eglinton, stood trial at Belfast Crown Court on seven counts of indecently assaulting a young girl, and two counts of gross indecency with or towards a child.

The offences spanned over a period from August 1981 to December 1988 when she was aged between eight and 14.

The former Derry and Strabane councillor, who together with his wife fostered around 50 children, denied all offences – but was found unanimously guilty of nine charges by a jury of six men and six women.

During the trial the complainant, who is now 47, said the abuse she suffered as a child by McKeever mainly involved sexual touching.

She recalled incidents in houses in and around Derry in the 80s and also spoke of being abused in Desmond’s Factory where McKeever used to rent an office.

During Friday’s sentencing, it emerged that McKeever still maintains his innocent – despite the jury’s verdicts.

Judge Donna McColgan QC spoke of the impact McKeever’s offending has had upon the complainaint, and said: “She has made every effort to look at the positives in her life but the feelings and memories of what happened in her childhood will always be with her.”

The Judge said that whilst there were multiple aggravating factors – such as the prolonged period the abuse occurred

As well as handing McKeever a four-year sentence, Judge McColgan also placed him on the Sex Offenders Register for an indefinite period.

May 2022

Ex Derry deputy mayor convicted of sex abuse of young girl

A former deputy mayor of Derry was remanded into custody today after he was convicted by a jury of sexual abuse against a young girl.

Despite his protestations of innocence, James McKeever – who was suspended from the SDLP when the sexual allegations came to light – was found guilty of eight offences.

The 63-year old, from Tamneyreagh Park in Eglinton, stood trial at Belfast Crown Court on seven counts of indecently assaulting a young girl, and two counts of gross indecency with or towards a child.

The offences spanned a period from August 1981 to December 1988 when she was aged between seven and 14.

The former councillor, who together with his wife fostered around 50 children, denied all the charges.

Following a week-long trial, after deliberating for just under six hours the jury of six men and six women returned unanimous guilty verdicts on six of the indecent assault charges, and found him not guilty of a seventh.

McKeever was also convicted on two charges of gross indecency – one unanimously and the other by a majority of 10-to-two.

The complainant, who is now 47, contacted the PSNI in 2018 and told them she had been abused as a child by McKeever.

She told police that the abuse occurred at several houses in and around Derry in the 80s.

The woman also recalled an incident of abuse at Desmond’s Factory where McKeever used to rent an office, and another while in a car when she was a child.

In her evidence, the woman said she had “bottled up” the abuse she suffered as a child for years.

She also said that at the time, due in part to McKeever’s standing in the community and his charity work, she felt unable to tell an adult what was happening.

The woman said she did tell a friend in the late 90s about what McKeever had done, with the friend urging her to contact the authorities.

In 2018 she confessed to her mother about the childhood abuse, and a short time later she contacted the PSNI.

When McKeever was arrested and interviewed about the allegations made by the woman, he completely denied her claims and said he had not displayed any improper behaviour towards her.

He maintained this stance throughout the trial, with his defence informing the jury that he came before the court with no criminal convictions and with a record of fostering scores of children.

The jury did not believe McKeever’s claims of innocence and convicted him on eight of the nine charges he faced.

Following the verdict, Judge Donna McColgan QC addressed the jury and said: “Thank you for the time and attention you have given this case.”

McKeever’s barrister spoke of his client’s “hitherto good character” and asked for McKeever to be granted bail ahead of sentencing.

This request was rejected by Judge McColgan, who said that as McKeever had been convicted by a jury of sexual offences against a child “he will be remanded in custody until sentencing.”

McKeever was told he will be sentenced for the historical sexual abuse in September.

He was then led from the dock and into custody in handcuffs by prison staff, as the woman he abused as a child stood yards from him in the public gallery.

Following the verdict the victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, released a brief statement.

She said: “Nothing is going to erase what that man done to me but today justice has been served. If anybody has been in the same situation as me I would ask them to come forward to police and speak out.”