"I would really like to thank and commend all survivors of sexual abuse for your amazing strength as it has helped me to fight to get my justice. Together we will send a message across the world that there is no shame in being a survivor of sexual abuse - the shame is on the abuser," the now 20-year-old survivor said via a written statement ready by Detective Chief Inspector Claire McGuigan after the sentencing Monday.
The case against Gary came to a conclusion in May 2019 after he confessed to the final charge against him. He had previously pleaded guilty to 15 charges against him for abuse.
The charges included two counts each of rape, gross indecency with a child and indecent assault along with six of “taking or permitting to be taken” indecent photos of a child, which were committed between January 2001 and October 2003.
In May 2011, Gary confessed to three counts of distributing indecent images of a child.
According to the Belfast Telegram, the abuse had started when the girl was 18 months old, and continued until she was 3 years and 3 months old.
The week before Gary confessed to the final charge, his wife, Heather, appeared in the same court room and confessed to a number of charges against her including, two counts each of aiding and abetting her husband in the rape of the little girl, indecently assaulting her and committing acts of gross indecency with or towards the child. Heather also admitted to three charges concerning indecent images of the child.
During one of the interviews with investigators, Heather "commented that it was, 'just a fantasy that we carried too far', before correcting herself, saying, 'it was his fantasy, not mine really'," before adding it was "not really" her fantasy, and that "she played along".
Their sentencing had initially been scheduled for June 4, 2019. It is not clear why sentencing was delayed.
Judge Piers Grant said during the sentencing hearing that their actions were a "depraved and premeditated campaign of abuse and rape against a defenseless toddler." He continued by saying their actions "will provoke a sense of disgust and even disbelief that anyone could act in this way, particularly towards a child of such tender years."
Gary was sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison. He will be required to serve 7½ of those behind bars and the remaining ones on supervised licence after his release.
Heather was handed a nine year sentence. She will be required to serve six of those years before the remaining three are allowed on supervised licence.
In her statement the survivor also said, “I am glad that my abusers have finally faced justice and will have to serve time in prison for what they did to me. I was only a child when they took my innocence away.”
While she said the abuse caused her to lose her childhood memories and left her with post traumatic stress disorder, she is on the road to recovery. "I'm hoping to become a counselor, as counselling has been essential in my recovery and thank you to my counselor as you have inspired me to help others overcome traumatic experiences."