Abuse accused sentenced today

Brendan McGowan is due to be sentenced at Derry Crown Court tomorrow.
Brendan McGowan is due to be sentenced at Derry Crown Court tomorrow.

A former swimming instructor who sexually abused a schoolboy over a four year period is to be sentenced at Derry Crown Court today.

Brendan McGowan (69), of Brewsters Close in the city’s Bogside, has pleaded guilty to six charges of indecently assaulting the boy, two charges of commiting an act of gross indecency with or towards the boy and one charge of inciting the boy to commit an act of gross indecency.

Derry Crown Court has heard that the incidents started in 1989 when the boy was aged 12.

At a plea hearing on Friday, the Court heard that McGowan and the schoolboy came to know each other through a mutual interest in jazz music.

Prosecuting counsel Russell Connell said the abuse first started when McGowan invited the boy to his flat for a plate of chips and a glass of beer.

The court heard that McGowan sat down beside the 12-year-old and put his hand on his leg. The boy then stood up, to which McGowan said to him: “I thought you knew I was gay.” The boy then left the flat.

Mr. Connell said that, some time later, McGowan and the schoolboy encountered each other and, on this occasion, the defendant invited the boy back to his flat for a coffee and to listen to some jazz music.

Over the following weeks and months, said Mr. Connell, the boy was a regular visitor to McGowan’s flat in the Bogside.

The prosecuting counsel said that, during some of these visits, McGowan indecently assaulted the boy.

The court heard that, on one occasion, McGowan got the boy to lie naked on the floor while he masturbated over him.

On another occasion, he performed oral sex on the boy.

Mr. Connell said the boy was aged about 16 when he stopped visiting McGowan’s flat when he realised what was happening was “wrong.”

The prosecuting counsel said the injured party didn’t tell anyone what had happened for a number of years but eventually reported the matter to the police.

The court was told that, when interviewed by police about the allegations in October 2012, McGowan denied anything inappropriate had happened during the boy’s visits to his flat.

Mr. Connell said there were a number of aggravating features to the case, chief among them the age difference between the accused and his victim.

McGowan, he said, was aged around 45 when the abuse began while the boy was aged just 12.

He also referred to the manner in which the abuse had unfolded and the “element of seduction” in the way the accused had behaved towards the boy.

He also pointed to the fact that the offences had taken place over a four year period.

Defence barrister Brian McCartney said McGowan and the schoolboy had enjoyed a relationship based on their “passion for jazz music.”

He said they first met after the defendant heard the boy playing saxophone at a jazz event in the city.

The barrister added that the boy had subsequently expressed an interest in seeing McGowan’s music collection.

However, he added: “My client misread the signals and this is a source of continuous regret to him... He has expressed his abhorrence and deep remorse for these offences.”

Mr. McCartney said that his client’s sexual orientation had been well known to his friends and work colleagues from an early age and that, later in his life, he had played an important role in the establishment of a local gay support network.

He said that, as a result of his actions, his client faced a “complete nightmare”, revealing that McGowan had suicidal thoughts and suffered from clinical depression.

Mr. McCartney also told the court that his client had himself been abused as a child.

He said the nature of the offences, allied to his client’s age, would render him “additionally vulnerable” if sent to prison.

Judge Philip Babington said he wanted time to reflect on the case and would sentence McGowan on Monday afternoon.