May 2016

Former Runcorn teacher jailed for sexually abusing vulnerable victim

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A former Runcorn teacher who preyed on a vulnerable abuse victim for his own sexual gratification is now behind bars.

Anthony James O’Neill, of Carmarthen Close, Winsford, was sentenced to four years in prison at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday, after being convicted by a jury of two counts of indecent assault and one count of indecency with a child.

The 69-year-old who used to live and teach in Runcorn was acquitted of a further four sex offences by the 12 jurors – two of these were concerning a second alleged victim.

The court heard how the victim had come forward in 2014 after years of suffering in silence about the abuse she had suffered at the hands of a teacher she trusted.

The abuse, which took place over several months during the 1980s, included encouraging the pupil who was under the age of 13 to touch O’Neill while he was naked in the showers at English Martyrs – a former high school in Warrington.

O’Neill also repeatedly touched the girl underneath her uniform while she was at the school.

Prosecuting, Sion ap Mihangel, said: “There was a significant breach of trust given his position as a teacher.

“But this was compounded by the fact that the victim was a vulnerable individual as she made it clear to him she was being abused by others.”

The court heard how the victim has struggled in the years since the abuse.

In a victim impact statement, read out in court, the prosecuting team said: “It has had an effect on her family life and children.

“Because of what has happened to her at school she is overprotective of her children and this affects their friendships and their school life and she blames what has happened at the door of the defendant.”

Defending, Simon Christie, said O’Neill, who has no previous convictions, had gone on to bring up a family with three daughters.

He added: “These offences occurred from the December to the June and did not go on into her second year.

“There after the defendant continued his career and effectively retired at 65.

“Any sentence of custody will have an enormous effect.”

But Recorder Paul O’Brien refused to suspend the sentence as throughout the trial O’Neill had ‘attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of the jury’.

He added: “You told her if she needed to speak about this [the abuse she had previously suffered] she should go to you.

“Well she did think about this and she decided to confide in you about her abuse but instead of helping her you took advantage.”