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MND-sufferer’s blinking eyes convict historical abuse cleric

17 February 2017

PA

A FORMER chorister who was paralysed by motor neurone disease was able to convict his abuser, using eye-tracking technology, before his death last week, the Metropolitan Police have reported.

The former Vicar of St Matthias’s, Stoke Newington, in London, Cyril Rowe, was convicted of three counts of indecent assault against a young boy between 1979 and 1981, at Bournemouth Crown Court, on 8 February. The victim, who has not been named, was a choirboy at the church during the late 1970s. He was nine and 11 years old when the abuse was carried out.

The victim gave evidence from a hospice in Streatham, south London, via video link, by “blinking his eyes” — a signal that was interpreted by technology similar to that used by the physicist Stephen Hawking to communicate.

A CPS spokesperson said: “Mobility or health issues need not be a barrier to witnesses’ giving their evidence in court. The CPS will always do everything we can to ensure victims and witnesses can give their best evidence, including using the latest technology.”

The Metropolitan Police reported that the victim died, aged 47, on the same day as the guilty verdict was returned, on Wednesday of last week. He did not hear that Mr Rowe, aged 78, had been convicted.

The NSPCC said in a statement that the victim had shown “tre­mendous courage in coming forward and reliving the horrors he endured more than 30 years ago. It is this bravery that has finally helped to expose Rowe’s betrayal of trust, and to ensure that justice prevails.

”It is crucial that survivors of ab­use have the confidence to come forward and know that they will receive the support they need, no matter how much time has passed.”

The offences were reported to police on 13 August 2015. Mr Rowe was interviewed under caution in January last year, and charged in September. He is due to be sentenced on 10 March.

The phone number for the NSPCC Helpline is 0808 800 5000.

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