March 2006

Child rapist jailed for life

A CHILD rapist, who befriended and then preyed on young children in Worthing, has been jailed for life.

Martin Phelan, 35, previously of Chatsworth Road and Meredith Road, Worthing, attacked nine boys and girls, aged seven to 14, between 1994 and 1998.

Appearing at Chichester Crown Court on Friday, he stood frowning, arms folded, as Judge Anthony Thorpe told him “all right-thinking people will be appalled to hear that one man can cause such misery and betray trusts so cruelly.

“You are such a danger, acting as a sexual predator preying on the young and vulnerable, that there is no alternative to sentences of life imprisonment.”

Judge Thorpe told Phelan he would serve at least 10 years in prison before parole would be considered.

He added: “I doubt it will ever be safe to release you, but that is a matter for the parole board, not me.”

At a previous hearing, Phelan had admitted rape, two counts of attempted rape, 15 counts of indecent assault and three counts of assault causing actual bodily harm. His attacks took place in Worthing town centre, the Broadwater/East Worthing area and Bramber.

As the verdict was announced, cries of abuse and “rot in hell” were screamed from the crowded public gallery containing his victims and their families.

Philip Katz QC, prosecuting, told the court Phelan was “a compulsive, promiscuous paedophile” who devastated the lives of his victims.

He detailed Phelan’s appalling abuse of young children, saying: “The abuse was persistent, done in an atmosphere of threatened violence, and often perpetrated when other children were present.”

Mr Katz said Phelan’s wife, Jackie, had questioned her husband about his behaviour, but believed he would stop.

Mr Katz added: “There is a clear indication Mrs Phelan knew what was going on and chose not to do anything about it.”

Police later confirmed no charges had been brought against Mrs Phelan.

Mr Katz read statements from the tormented youngsters, painting a torrid picture of lives blighted by drink and drug abuse, behavioural and relationship problems since their experiences with Phelan.

One 14-year-old boy told how he attempted suicide after being indecently assaulted.

A girl repeatedly raped by Phelan from the age of eight said he had ruined her life.

Another girl believed Phelan would kill her if she told anyone what was happening and was left with a phobia of men with ginger hair – the colour of Phelan’s.

Mr Katz told how Phelan’s abuse had begun when he had lived in Brightlingsea, Essex, in 1994, continuing after he moved to Worthing in the summer of 1996.

Another sickening episode happened after Phelan had taken four children on a trip to Bramber.

Police began investigations in November, 1998, after several complaints from parents of his victims.

Phelan, an Irish national, fled to Ireland, where his horrific abuse continued. He was twice convicted of offences against boys aged between nine and 14 years, serving more than five years in prison before being extradited to the UK last September.

Brian O’Neill, defending, said Phelan had been sexually and physically abused throughout his childhood. He said Phelan now expressed “considerable remorse and regret for his actions” and deserved credit for sparing his victims and families the ordeal of a trial.

Mr O’Neill said Phelan had attempted suicide during a rehabilitation programme while in prison in Ireland, as he began to see himself as an abuser rather than a victim.

Judge Thorpe urged authorities to admit Phelan for treatment as someone with “a dangerous and severe” personality disorder.

He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for life and banned from ever working with children.