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Eye blink technology allows vicar sex abuse victim to give evidence

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Derek Harper

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Victim Michael Kelsick said the abuse happened at the vicarage and in the choir practice room of St Matthias’ Church, Tower Hamlets

A former vicar has been jailed for sexually abusing a choirboy who gave evidence using eye-tracking technology which turned his blinks into words.

Cyril Rowe was sentenced to four years for three counts of indecent assault at a London church in the late 70s.

His victim Michael Kelsick, 47, died of motor neurone disease in a hospice before hearing the guilty verdicts.

He was the first person to give evidence in a UK court using the Eyegaze technology.

Judge Peter Johnson said Mr Kelsick, who gave evidence through a taped interview and via videolink from a hospice in Streatham, was diagnosed with the disease in 2015.

‘Fraught with emotion’

“Despite the ravages of that incurable illness, he was, thanks to modern science, finally able to tell the court of what happened to him at your hands,” he told 78-year-old Rowe, from Bournemouth.

“He wanted to see justice done, but tragically that was not the case as he died shortly before an officer arrived to deliver the news.”

Mr Kelsick told Bournemouth Crown Court Rowe abused him 20 times between 1978 and 1982 at the vicarage and in the choir practice room of St Matthias’ Church, Tower Hamlets, east London, and would pay him £1 afterwards.

The court heard Rowe was convicted in 1996 for the abuse of another choirboy.

“You have shown absolutely no remorse and very little insight into the harm you caused to a little boy,” Judge Johnson told him.

He described how Mr Kelsick had been adopted at the age of four “in tragic circumstances” and removed from his sisters to live with a parishioner at the church.

Simon Shannon, prosecuting, said Mr Kelsick had lived a life of crime and drug abuse “attributable to what happened to him at the hands of Mr Rowe”.

Rebecca Austin, defending, said: “This trial was fraught with emotion, anyone watching the attempts of Mr Kelsick to communicate was bound to be swayed.”


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