Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Sex abuse church elder McConaghy 'too fat for jail'

John William McConaghy who avoided jail because of his obesity
McConaghy abused his victim throughout her childhood

A 66-year-old church elder convicted of indecently assaulting a child will not be sent to jail because his obesity means his health is "precarious".

John William McConaghy, from Urbal Road, Dervock, County Antrim, was found guilty of indecent assault.

Judge David Smyth at Antrim Crown Court suspended a two-and-a-half year term.

He said McConaghy's lack of mobility, ulcerated legs and need for frequent dressings amounted to "wholly exceptional circumstances".

The jail term was suspended for three years and a £10,000 fine was also imposed.

During a 10-day trial in October McConaghy's victim, who is now 44, said she was indecently assaulted from the age of around 10 until she was 18.

'Not happy'

She said that she was assaulted so often it became "the norm".

She said McConaghey's abuse "petered out" as she reached adulthood and struck back at him, scratching his face as she fought him off.

Speaking after the sentencing the woman said was "not happy" he was freed, but nevertheless understood the reason why.

"I am happy with the sentence he got, I think that was a fair sentence, but I am not happy with the suspension of it, but I understand the reason for it on medical grounds."

She added that she was glad she had pursued the case against him, "because everybody now knows, church elder or not, what he is".

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