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Prosecution to decide if 86-year-old former house master at Co Antrim girls’ training school should face retrial

The prosecution in the case of an 86-year-old man suffering from dementia will decide next week whether he should face a retrial.

homas McNaughten was accused of raping and sexually abusing a teenage girl four decades ago when a house master at a Co Antrim girls’ training school.

On Monday, a Belfast Crown Court jury sitting in Antrim reported they could not decide on verdicts on the 14 offences faced by McNaughten, from Princes Avenue in Newtownabbey.

However, the jury of seven men and five women did determine he “did not do the acts complained of” in the case of two other teenage girls who were also resident at the former Whiteabbey girls’ training school in the late 1970s to mid 1980s.

Trial Judge Richard Greene QC then dismissed the jury on being told that, even if given more time to discuss matters, they could not reach even majority determinations on the first of 14 charges, one charge of rape, and 13 of indecent assault faced by the pensioner.

Mr McNaughten was not in court to hear the jury’s determinations, having been excused throughout the week-long case given his mental capacity and inability to follow proceedings or to instruct counsel.

Prosecution counsel said they would need until next week to decide if the case will be brought before a new jury.

Should there be a retrial, it will not decide on whether the former house master is guilty of any criminal offence, but rather determine as in the current hearing, given Mr McNaughten’s dementia, if he “committed the acts complained of”.

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