Vicar jailed after dying abuse victim gives evidence through eye-tracking software

He died before he could be informed of the jury’s conclusion

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A retired vicar who abused a choirboy more than 35 years ago has been jailed for four years after his victim gave evidence through eye-tracking technology that translated his blinks into words.

Cyril Ashton Rowe, 78, was convicted at Bournemouth Crown Court in February of three counts of indecent assault against the same victim between 1979 and 1981. He was sentenced at the same court to four years in prison.

His victim - who was abused between the ages of nine and 11 - died of motor neurone disease on the day the verdict was returned.

He died before he could be informed of the jury’s conclusion, although he had achieved his dying wish of giving evidence against Rowe, the Crown Prosecution service said in a statement

The 47-year-old, who was not able to speak or write, gave evidence during the trial via a link from a hospice in Sydenham.

Eye-tracking technology helped him describe how Rowe would lock the church door, pin him down and sexually abuse him, before apologising and giving him £1.

The former choirboy said there were 20 different occasions when the abuse took place at the vicarage of St Matthias' Church in Stoke Newington in London and in a choir practice room.

A police investigation in August 2015 was launched after the victim informed members of his family, who then contacted members of the diocese.

Rowe was charged on 6 September 2016 after being interviewed under caution in January the same year.

Investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Hannah Stewart, said: "It was extremely traumatic for the victim to relive his ordeal after so many years.

"Through his brave determination, his evidence - given to detectives during hours of meticulous interviews, and at court - enabled the conviction of Rowe for these serious sexual offences.

"This conviction is a fitting tribute to the courage of the victim, who sadly died during these proceedings."

CPS London reviewing lawyer David Nixon said: “The way Cyril Rowe’s victim was allowed to use this eye-tracking technology over video link shows how the CPS can help victims and witnesses who might otherwise struggle to give evidence in court.

“This man was determined to seek justice against the vicar who had abused him all those years ago and these special measures enabled that to happen.

“They included a live video link into the court from his hospice bed, an intermediary to help him on the day, and help for his sister to use a video link too, as she wanted to stay close to him in his final days.

"As a result the jury were able to hear his powerful testimony which has ultimately led to the convictions and today’s sentence.”