Youth leader fails to overturn sex abuse conviction
A youth group leader jailed for sexually abusing a boy who later died has failed in a bid to overturn his convictions.
Colm Joseph Shaw, 55, was challenging a verdict that he subjected the victim to repeated indecent assaults while driving a school bus in Co Armagh.
But the Court of Appeal rejected claims that bad character evidence had wrongly featured at his trial.
Lord Justice Deeny said: “This court has no doubt about the safety of the verdict.”
In 2015 Shaw, formerly of Perry Street in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, was found guilty by a jury on counts of indecent assault and gross indecency with a child.
He received a five-year sentence, three of which were to be spent in prison and two on probation.
The alleged offences were committed against a boy aged between 10 and 13, during a period from 2003 to 2005.
He claimed Shaw touched him at least ten times when he sat at the front of a school bus to avoid bullying.
Police were alerted years later when the complainant, who had by that stage moved away from the area with his family, told his father about the incidents.
However, before the case reached trial the victim died in an accident.
A video of his police interview was played to the jury, who also heard details of Shaw’s previous conviction for making and possessing indecent images of children.
The prosecution also relied on bad character evidence from another alleged victim, referred to as C.
He claimed Shaw sexually abused him as a ten-year-old boy while on a weekend trip with a youth club.
Defence lawyers argued that the trial judge had wrongly admitted C’s allegations, for which Shaw was never convicted, for the purpose of establishing a propensity to sexually abuse young children.
They also contended that jurors had been misdirected in how they dealt with the evidence.
The court held, however, that the trial judge had taken a cautious approach by directing the jury that C’s claims should only play a part in their deliberations if they were satisfied of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Deeny said: “Despie the death (of the victim), this was a strong prosecution case with supportive evidence from the parents of the complainant and not one but four pieces of bad character evidence of varying weight and importance, some of it cogent similar fact evidence.”