The paedophile brother of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was told yesterday that he had committed the greatest breach of trust imaginable as he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for raping his daughter.
Liam Adams, 58, from west Belfast, showed no visible sign of remorse as a judge passed sentence in Belfast Crown Court, shaking his head occasionally during the hearing and then smiling and laughing as he was led from the dock.
As his crimes were committed at a time when offenders in Northern Ireland were still eligible for 50 per cent remission on jail terms – a policy that has since been reformed – Adams is set to be released after spending eight years behind bars.
The former youth worker was found guilty last month of sexual assaults on his child Aine Dahlstrom when she was aged between four and nine in the late 1970s and early 80s. The 40-year-old, who has waived her right to anonymity, wiped tears from her eyes as she watched from the public gallery of Court 14 as her father found out the length of his jail term.
Handing down the sentence, which comprised 16 years in custody and a further two years on probation, Judge Corinne Philpott said Adams’s continued refusal to admit his guilt was still denying his daughter the closure she sought. “It has been clear throughout that Mrs Dahlstrom simply wanted an acknowledgement from her father that what he had done to her during her childhood was wrong,” she said.
“He has always denied her this acknowledgement and continues to do so.
“However, she now at least knows that the jury must have found her evidence compelling as they believed her.”
The judge added: “This case involved the greatest breach of trust imaginable where a father instead of caring for and protecting his daughter himself abused her.”
Adams, from Bernagh Drive, was found guilty of ten offences against his daughter – three counts of rape, four of indecent assault and three of gross indecency.
The abuse was committed over a five-year period between 1977 and 1981.
Adams’s convictions have heaped pressure on his high-profile older brother to explain why he did not alert the authorities to the abuse allegations when he first learned of them.
During a first trial earlier this year, which collapsed, the Sinn Fein leader, now a public representative in the Irish Republic, claimed he first heard of the sex abuse claims in 1987 and, 13 years later, his younger brother admitted his guilt to him.
The former west Belfast MP faced criticism for not informing police about the alleged confession for another nine years.
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers recommended the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) take no case against the Sinn Fein veteran.
Northern Ireland’s police ombudsman is now investigating if detectives properly examined whether Gerry Adams covered up the crimes and the PSNI has pledged to review the case. Northern Ireland’s attorney general John Larkin is examining the role of prosecutors.
Gerry Adams, who was not in court yesterday, instead attending the funeral of well known priest Alec Reid in west Belfast, has insisted he committed no offence and accused political rivals of exploiting a family issue to attack him.
Ahead of passing sentence, Judge Philpott outlined the details of Adams’s brother’s crimes.
Three of the convictions relate to an incident in May 1978 when he raped and further sexually abused his daughter when her mother was in hospital giving birth to her younger brother.
The judge said Adams would warn his daughter that if she told on him he would be sent to jail.
“Mrs Dahlstrom told the court in the evidence that even as a young child she had an understanding that what was happening was wrong but that she did not understand why her father was doing it to her,” she said.
Ms Philpott said he committed the abuse when he was angry, sometimes drunk and sometimes sober.
“She remembers the smell of his breath when he had taken drink and he was pressing down on her chest,” the judge told the court.
Mrs Dahlstrom first brought the matter to police in 1987. This was in the midst of the Northern Ireland Troubles and a time when many people in republican communities distrusted and refused to co-operate with the security forces.
She did not pursue the matter. It would be another 20 years before she went to the police again, after finding out that her father was working in a youth club that her children attended.
Liam Adams will be placed on the sex offender’s register.