Former house master at Co Antrim training school sexually abused teenager, jury concludes

Thomas McNaughten (86) excused from attending trial in Belfast court due to mental and physical ill health

A former house master at a Co Antrim training school for girls sexually abused a teenager in his care, a jury concluded on Monday.

Thomas McNaughten, who turns 87 next month, was excused from attending a trial held at Belfast Crown Court due to mental and physical ill health.

Instead of a normal trial where verdicts of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ are reached, the jury in this case was asked to determine whether McNaughten ‘did the act’ or ‘did not do the act’ in his absence.

After deliberating for around two hours, the jury unanimously found that McNaughten ‘did the act’ of raping the then 15-year-old girl.

The jury also found that McNaughten, from Princes Avenue in Newtownabbey, ‘did the act’ on 13 counts of indecently assaulting her.

The offences occurred between August 1980 and December 1981 when the complainant was a teenage resident at Whiteabbey Training School.

McNaughten, who at that time was in his 40s, worked as a house master in a supervisory role.

He denied the charges and during the trial, the jury heard that it took many years for the complainant to come forward and tell police what happened to her when she was 15.

She gave evidence regarding a rape that occurred in a shed, while she recalled incidents where he came into her room and gave her sweets before indecently assaulting her.

Other incidents of abuse at the hands of McNaughten left the teenager feeling “sore” and “shamed”.

When she finally went to the authorities, McNaughten was questioned by police and denied any wrong-doing.

His defence asked the jury to consider his claims of innocence and his clear criminal record.

However, the defence argument was rejected and the jury unanimously found that McNaughten did the acts of sexual abuse.

Following the verdicts, Judge Richard Greene QC inquired about McNaughten health and was told he is “currently in the care of a nursing home”.

His barrister said: “He has diagnosed dementia...he is now completely blind, he is immobile, he is bed-bound and requires full-time care, which he receives at the nursing home.”

Judge Greene said that for both McNaughten and the complainant, he wanted to bring the case to a conclusion.

The Judge said that as this process will need the involvement of the Belfast Trust, he adjourned the case until June 13th.