Care home convictions are quashed

June 30, 2005

Care home convictions are quashed. Two former Barnardos workers jailed for sexual offences against young people in their care have won their appeals. Ex-Barnardos employees Margaret Hewitt and George Anderson have been released on bail pending a possible retrial. They were convicted in 2004 for abusing young people in their care at the Macedon home in Newtownabbey. Mrs Hewitt, 70, formerly of Drains Bay in Larne, was serving an 11-year term. Last week, the Court of Appeal quashed 18 of 53 convictions against her. On Thursday, the court quashed 35 other counts she had appealed. Her co-accused, George Anderson, 47, formerly of Ballycarry, appealed 17 convictions, including two counts of rape. These convictions were also quashed. Mr Anderson was sentenced to 18 years for two counts of rape and 15 other convictions including indecent assault and gross indecency allegedly committed against five children between January 1979 and June 1981. “This has been a very difficult time for me and I now look forward to returning to my family and friends whose love and support I could not have been without for the past five years” George Anderson Mrs Hewitt was convicted of alleged indecent assault, gross indecency and assault committed against eight children between December 1977 and June 1981. Following the ruling, Mrs Hewitt said she had gone through “hell”. “The worst part of it is that it is such a disgrace,” she said. She said she was “elated” at the decision. “I was so thrilled.” “I prayed… and I have had many prayers answered – God is real.” Mr Anderson said: “This has been a very difficult time for me and I now look forward to returning to my family and friends whose love and support I could not have been without for the past five years.” During their three-week appeal, one alleged victim said he had lied at the original trial and claimed other witnesses had also lied. Quashing all the convictions, Lord Justice Nicholson said the retraction of evidence by one witness had contaminated the evidence of other witnesses. However, that is not the end of the affair – we shall give serious consideration to ordering a retrial on a significant number of counts The result was that the court was left with a significant sense of unease about the safety of the jury’s verdicts, he said. The prosecution had alleged most of the assaults took place at the Macedon home in Newtownabbey, on the outskirts of Belfast, more than 25 years ago when Mr Hewitt and Mrs Anderson worked there. The home was closed and demolished in 1981.

BBC News

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