Sex attacker given indeterminate jail term

A MAN convicted of sexually assaulting a female jogger in Cookstown has been told he will not be released from jail until he no longer presents a serious risk to women.

Thomas Christopher Ward (24) of The Glen, Coalisland was described on Friday at Dungannon Crown Court as a “dangerous” and “unremorseful” offender with a “high likelihood of reoffending”.

The court heard how the attack, which took place on February 1st last year, held “strikingly similar” elements to a previous incident in which Ward forcibly restrained and indecently assaulted a woman in Coalisland on St Patrick’s Day 2006.

In the 2011 attack the 24 year-old followed the female jogger for one mile before launching a sexual attack on her on the Orritor Road.

A prosecution barrister told the court it was the Crown’s belief that Ward had planned the attack, waiting to sexually assault his victim in a poorly lit area after following her for sometime.

He added that only for Ward’s victim escaping and finding refuge in a nearby friend’s house, it was the Crown’s belief Ward would have escalated a “more serious” assault on her.

Following the March 2006 attack, Ward had consistently breached the terms of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) and had repeatedly offended. He was on bail when he attacked his second victim.

“I have no doubt it was your intention to carry out a more sustained assault on this woman,” said Judge McFarland.

“I consider you dangerous for a number of reasons, the first being that this is the second offence of this type where you have attacked a single female.”

The judge added: “It was only down to the good fortune and resilience of your victims that you did not carry out a more serious assault.”

Further aggravating factors, the judge said, were Ward’s failure to avail of rehabilitation programmes whilst previously in custody and repeated failures to comply with the terms of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

“You are someone with a potential to cause serious harm,” added the Judge, “And you should be assessed as dangerous.”

A mitigating factor in the offence added the judge, was said to be Ward’s “low level of intellect”.

The 24 year-old’s defence stated that he only held a verbal IQ of 66 and fell into the “bottom one per cent of the population”.

Segment’s from a report written by a Psychologist who examined Ward were also read by the Crown Court judge who said that he should not be released from jail until he takes part in a number of rehabilitation programmes including a Sexual Offender’s programme.

Judge Mc Farland ordered that Ward serve and indeterminate prison sentence with a minimum of two years and will only be released when he is no longer thought to pose a risk of reoffending.