PPS statement following sentencing in Thomas McKenna sexual abuse case

Publication date:

Thomas McKenna (62) from Crossmaglen has been sentenced to 16 years imprisonment at Belfast Crown Court, after pleading guilty to 162 sexual abuse offences including serious sexual assault, indecent assault, voyeurism and possession of an indecent image of a child.

Senior Public Prosecutor from the PPS Serious Crime Unit Margaret Kinney said: “McKenna posed as an apparently respectable pillar of the community whilst carrying out a predatory campaign of sexual abuse against boys and young men over three decades. His tactics included ‘befriending’ his victims, while manipulating, grooming, coercing and abusing them. He preyed on the vulnerabilities of his victims, some of whom he abused for years, who felt afraid and embarrassed to report his offending.

“After concerns were raised, the Police Service of Northern Ireland investigation uncovered a shocking catalogue of offending involving 23 victims and spanning 30 years.

“The prosecution team worked with police from the earliest stages of their investigation to build a strong prosecution case which resulted in McKenna pleading guilty to 162 offences. The extensive and complex evidence in this case included multiple witness statements and digital evidence.

“We commend the courage of McKenna’s brave victims who spoke out about his abhorrent crimes and ultimately helped bring him to justice. We thank them for their positive engagement with the prosecution team throughout the criminal justice process.

“There should be no hiding place for sexual offenders and the PPS takes these offences very seriously. We understand that it can be daunting for victims of sexual abuse to come forward. The team of lawyers in the PPS Serious Crime Unit are trained and experienced in prosecuting sexual offences cases and working sensitively with victims who may have experienced trauma.

“If you have been the victim of sexual abuse, no matter when it occurred, please report your experiences to police. You will have the services of a dedicated police and prosecution team and be assured that we will prosecute these cases robustly, where there is the evidence to do so.”

Notes to Editors

  • The court sentenced McKenna to an extended custodial sentence of 16 years imprisonment extended by a period of seven years on licence.
  • All decisions by the PPS are taken strictly in accordance with the Test for Prosecution which involves two stages. The Test for Prosecution is met if, in relation to an identifiable suspect, the available evidence is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of a conviction (the Evidential Test) and if prosecution is in the public interest (the Public Interest Test). The Evidential Test must be passed first before the Public Interest Test is considered. Further information can be found in the PPS Code for Prosecutors.
  • Media queries for the PPS should be referred to the Communications Unit by emailing ppspressoffice@ppsni.gov.uk inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07920 271 804, 07920 418844 or 07341 800254.