There were emotional scenes in court today as the husband of a registered child minder was handed an eight year sentence for abusing two children.
As 64-year-old Damien Craig was taken to the cells at Downpatrick Crown Court, emotional friends and relatives of his two victims wept as they shouted at the self-confessed paedophile that he is a “scumbag” and he should “rot in hell.”
Jailing Mr Craig, Judge Geoffrey Miller KC had earlier described their victim impact statements as “raw and visceral” where they spoke of the “utter betrayal they rightly feel as the defendant was someone who they completely trusted.”
In a gross breach of that trust the judge said Craig’s offending “has had a fundamental effect” on the victims and their families, emphasising “there can be no doubt…they have been greatly harmed by the defendant’s actions.”
With the victim’s families placing their trust in Craig’s wife and by extension to him also, Judge Miller told the court he “took advantage of that situation to commit these acts, thus betraying the children, their families and also his own wife.”
At an earlier hearing Craig, a former senior civil servant from Bishop’s Brae Avenue in Downpatrick, entered guilty pleas to a total of six counts of sexually assaulting the two girls.
One victim came forward when she read newspaper reports of Craig being arrested and charged with those offences.
When the case began Judge Miller said while he accepted that “emotions are running high…this is a court of law and the court will run its course so anyone who feels that their emotions are likely to run away with them then please take the opportunity to leave court now.”
Before the judge began his sentencing remarks, defence counsel Michael Boyd highlighted that Craig had entered guilty pleas at the first opportunity and until that, he had a completely clear record.
“He acknowledges that he will get a significant custodial sentence and indeed, he feels he deserves that,” said the barrister adding that as a result of the offences Craig’s “good reputation in the community lies in tatters and he will have to live with the consequences.”
Turning to the facts of the case, Judge Miller outlined how the youngest victim came home and when her mum was helping her in the shower, the little girl told her how Craig had “tickled her mini,” referring to her private parts.
Their relationship had been so close that the victim referred to Craig as “Granda” and the court how she showed her mum what Craig had done, firstly in the living room and then in the bedroom of the child minder’s home.
Over the weekend the parents “debated the next course of action” and on the Monday, they confronted Craig’s wife who “refused to belief the defendant had offended” and they then alerted the police.
During a video recorded interview with specialist detectives the little girl repeated her allegations, telling police it had made her sad because ‘Granda’ had “tickled me too hard.”
Arrested and interviewed Craig admitted that he had touched the girl inappropriately but he denied “there was any sexual gratification” or that he had any sexual interest in children.
He was charged to court for those offences and when that first appearance was reported in the press the second victim came forward, said judge Miller.
“She told her mother ‘I could’ve stopped it’ and then began to cry as she disclosed that he had abused her too,” he told the court.
This victim also recorded a video interview with police where she revealed she had been touched inappropriately by Craig on multiple occasions.
Questioned about the allegations, Craig again admitted that he had touched her private parts “both over and under clothing” but again, he denied obtaining any sexual gratification from it, claiming that “he didn’t think he was causing harm.”
Despite those protestations, Judge Miller highlighted the fact that the first three years of a child’s life is vital as regards their developmental path and revealed that for Craig’s youngest victim, she is already showing signs of post traumatic stress response as she needs greater reassurance, needs to sleep with her mummy and is more “clingy.”
Sadly she has exhibited signs of distrust towards male figures in her life, including her own dad and grandfathers.
He revealed that according to medical reports, the emotions she is feeling now are likely to have a negative impact in later years as she develops further and will impinge upon her daily life such as relationships, having her own children and even routine medical examinations.
The other victim, the court heard, had tried to block out the abuse for years but she has also “experienced serious trauma” with a sense that “her childhood has been stolen at the abuse she suffered at the hands of the defendant.”
Judge Miller told the court while Craig’s culpability and the harm he caused were both “very high,” it was evidence from the reports that he was not a dangerous offender and had been assessed as posing a low risk of re-offending.
“The defendant has expressed his remorse and disgust at what he has done,” the judge told the court adding there were multiple aggravating features including the breach of trust, the multiple victims and the “particularly vulnerable” ages of the victims.
Judge Miller told Craig that had he been convicted after a trial he would have been given a 12 year sentence but allowing credit for his personal background and his guilty pleas, he would reduce that sentence to eight years, split half in prison and half on licence.
In addition, Craig was ordered to signed the police sex offenders register for life and made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for the next ten years.
Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan’s exclusive take on the day’s news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.News Related