July 2019

Teacher sexually assaulted after father-in-law’s funeral feels ‘vindicated’ after attacker loses appeal

A teacher who was sexually assaulted following her father-in-law’s funeral has said she can now “start living again” after the man found guilty of attacking her lost his appeal against his conviction.

Oonagh Hughes (51) previously waived her right to anonymity to encourage others to report sex attacks to police.

Painter and decorator John Shivers, from Grange Park in Magherafelt, Co Derry, was convicted at Belfast Magistrate’s Court on April 2 this year of sexually assaulting Mrs Hughes.

He attacked her in the clubhouse of Moyola Park Golf Club near Castledawson where mourners had gone for a meal following the funeral on September 30, 2016.

Following his conviction, Shivers was ordered to sign and remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register for five years, complete 220 hours of community service within 12 months and pay his victim £1,000 compensation.

Following the appeal hearing at Derry Crown Court, Judge Elizabeth McCaffrey affirmed the original conviction however she revoked the sex offenders’ notification and community service.

Instead she fined Shivers £250 and ordered him to pay £2,000 in compensation to his victim.

The court heard Shivers, a close friend of Mrs Hughes’ brother-in-law, sat beside her and “moved his hand up to her thigh”.

When she asked him to stop, he made sexual remarks before continuing the assault which left her tights torn.

Shivers’ DNA was found on the tights.

The assault was witnessed by Mrs Hughes’s daughter, who testified to the court via videolink from Australia where she was spending a year travelling.

However, many family members and friends disagreed with her decision to report the assault to police.

Speaking after the case, Mrs Hughes said the legal process had been “completely harrowing”.

“I feel totally vindicated,” she said.

“This is all I wanted. I felt my life has been on hold for almost three years and now I can start living again.”

She said the case had divided her home village of Castledawson, splitting families and long friendships.

“It was expected that he would appeal but he knew he was guilty from the start,” she said.

“This has been very hard for my family, my husband and children.

“It’s been completely harrowing. It feels like closure now and hopefully I can move on with my life.

“This is a victory for all women,” she said.