Today, Friday 21st April, a 62-year-old man from the Crossmaglen area was sentenced at Laganside Crown Court.
Thomas McKenna was sentenced to 16 years in custody, after pleading guilty to 162 sexual abuse offences including serious sexual assault, indecent assault, voyeurism and possession of an indecent image of a child.
His offending spanned over a 30-year period from 1989 to 2018 and involved 23 male victims, ranging from 14 to 39 years of age.
He will be placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register indefinitely.
Detective Chief Inspector Kerry Brennan said: “Thomas McKenna was a respected and influential member of the Crossmaglen community, who used his positions of trust to gain access to young males to carry out the litany of abuse as outlined in court today.”
“His offending spanned over a lengthy 30-year period.
“He has caused long-lasting psychological damage to his victims and their families and I’ve no doubt that learning of the severity of his offending today will ricochet through the Crossmaglen community.
“Predators of this type are incredibly manipulative, and invest a lot of time building trust and embedding themselves within communities to carry out their offending under the radar. Hidden in plain sight.
“Our thoughts today are with the victims that this man preyed on, and abused for so many years. It takes huge courage to speak out and break the cycle of abuse.
“We would like to commend them for coming forward and working with our dedicated detectives. We would continue to encourage anyone who has experienced any form of sexual abuse to contact police on 101, or in an emergency call 999.
“Please don’t suffer in silence fearing you won’t be believed. We will listen to you and we will act. It doesn’t matter when the abuse happened, we will still investigate and work to bring abusers before the courts as we have done today.”
The victims in this case released an emotive joint statement today, saying: “We thank Her Honour Judge Patricia Smyth for the sentence handed down earlier today.
“As a group, we sincerely thank our families, our community and the members of the Crossmaglen Rangers Club for the unwavering loyalty, support and care you have provided us.
“We want to thank the Police Service for the empathy and swiftness in which they dealt with the crimes committed against us from when they were first informed almost five years ago.
“In addition, we also wish to thank the Public Prosecution Service and the prosecution team for their professionalism and diligence in preparing the case for Court and ensuring we received the guilty pleas for the litany of crimes committed against us when we were children. And most importantly, to ensure this individual will never be a part of our community again.
“While there were many difficult days as we relived the crimes committed against us, we as a group are immensely proud of the strength, dignity and unity we’ve displayed throughout this process to get the justice we deserve and ensure that the pain and suffering inflicted upon us will not be felt by another generation in our community.
“We urge anyone else who has suffered similarly to take confidence from our journey and to reach out to the relevant authorities.
“To John, Bernie at Ulster GAA, and Jill, the investigating officer within the Police Service; thank you for hearing our voices. Thank you for the support, comfort and reassurance you have provided us throughout this process. Each one of you went above and beyond your call of duty.
“We will be forever indebted to you for everything you have done for us, individually and collectively. We hope your families are very proud of you.
“Finally, we request that our privacy and that of our community is respected.”