Sex offender denied appeal of sentence for abusing young girls

John Adams made victims take Polaroid pictures of themselves as he molested them

The Supreme Court has refused to hear a further appeal by a jailed sex offender who made three young girls take Polaroid pictures of themselves as he sexually abused them.

John Adams, now in his late 70s and formerly with an address at Dunvale, Ballymena, Co Antrim, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court in 2003 to four counts of unlawful carnal knowledge and two counts of sexual abuse of the girls between 1991 and 1993 in Co Louth.

Adams, who had fought extradition from Northern Ireland in connection with the charges, received four life sentences on each count of unlawful carnal knowledge and four years on the sexual abuse counts. He was also declared to be a sex offender.

An appeal was dismissed in 2004 and the Court of Appeal also refused a further application last year for leave to appeal on grounds of a “newly discovered fact”.


Adams then asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal, arguing that remarks by the Court of Appeal when rejecting his original appeal against sentence amounted to accepting preventative detention, which has no place in Irish law.

In a recently published determination, three Supreme Court judges said Adams had not met the criteria for a further appeal as he had not raised a point of law of general public importance and nor was an appeal necessary in the interests of justice.

The court noted that, in opposing Adams' application, the State accepted there is no such thing as preventative detention but it considered remarks of the then presiding judge of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, did not involve upholding the sentence on the basis of preventative detention but rather on the basis of "just deserts".

The State’s acceptance, in a case before the European Court of Human Rights, of the principle that preventative detention has no part in Irish law did not amount to a newly discovered fact within the meaning of section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993, it said.

There is “no newly discovered principle of Irish law that preventative detention is not a basis for sentencing an accused”, it said.


The court also said it “would not seem to be incorrect”, in sentencing an offender, to refer to the record of that offender, which in Adams case included child pornography, child stealing and indecent assault, and to see whether such a pattern of offending established a really grave situation worthy of punishment, or whether a situation existed whereby a serious fall from correct behaviour had occurred which was very unlikely to re-occur.

This would be a mitigating factor while an aggravating factor would be the presence of a pattern of similar conduct.

Earlier, the court noted the three victims were children whom Adams had inveigled into becoming friendly with him before he “grossly exploited” them.

The offences had been described by the trial judge, the late Mr Justice Paul Carney, an experienced criminal judge, as being among the worst he had ever seen, the judges noted.

Mr Justice Carney had had to view four volumes of photographs hidden in Adams’ dwelling which included photos of the three children, either photographed by Adams, or photographed by each other at his direction, in acts of sexual violence.

The offences to which Adams pleaded guilty - seven years after he was first apprehended - were a small number of offences regarded as being representative of general conduct complained of in relation to many dozens of counts in the indictment, it also noted.