A 66-year-old man has been found guilty of 38 counts of indecent assault and child cruelty related to the repeated sexual and physical abuse of his two young stepsons in Co Wicklow over 30 years ago.
A jury of eight men and four women also convicted the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons to protect the identity of his victims, on a separate charge of animal cruelty.
Evidence was heard that the man had tied a pet dog to a railway track and forced his two stepsons to watch the animal being run over by a train as punishment for allowing it to escape.
The jury returned verdicts after just over an hour of deliberation at the end of a five-day trial at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court sitting in Trim, Co Meath.
The man, an English national, whose last known address was in the west of Ireland, had pleaded not guilty to 12 charges of indecent assault against each of his two stepsons and seven charges of child cruelty on each of his victims on dates between December 1, 1988 and May 31, 1989 at their home in Co Wicklow.
Two other charges of indecent assault relating to forcing the two victims to abuse each other were withdrawn during the trial by the DPP.
Judge Martina Baxter described the trial as “a very sad, difficult and tragic case”.
The man has previously served a lengthy prison sentence for the possession and distribution of a large quantity of child pornography that contained extreme and explicit images of child sex abuse .
He also has a conviction for sex with a minor.
The man showed no emotion as he sat with his arms folded as the foreman of the jury took several minutes to reply “guilty” to all 39 offences.
The two victims, who were eight years old at the time of the offences, live in England and were not present in court for the verdicts.
Both victims gave evidence that their stepfather, regularly forced them to perform sexual acts with him in one of two adjoining premises where their family lived, while physical beatings were carried out on a daily basis with “a big brown belt with a big buckle and a truncheon-like stick”.
One victim claimed their stepfather had regarded him and his twin brother as “sexual pawns” while he treated them “worse than a dog.”
His brother recounted how he had once received an electrical shock after his stepfather had run a current through a door handle to prevent him taking food.
They also described squalid living conditions in which they regularly went without food, water or clean clothing for long periods as well as being made sleep in a premises with nothing but blankets and a locked box containing food.
One brother recalled how he used to have to drink from oil-contaminated rain puddles because of the lack of water at home,
The trial heard the sexual and physical abuse had continued after the family had moved to Ireland from Britain in 1988 and only stopped after a teacher had noticed bruising on one of the boys after which they were placed in a foster home.
Evidence was also heard that the accused had forced his stepsons to have sex with other men who were described as “uncles” at a house near their home in Wicklow.
The court was told that the boys’ mother had “turned a blind eye to everything”.
Judge Baxter ordered victim impact statements to be prepared and remanded the man in custody to appear before the same court for sentencing on October 5.