A self-confessed sex abuser has been secretly allowed back into Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) — in the latest scandal to rock the party.
Fruit farmer Brian Hutchinson, 42, was voted in as party treasurer in Armagh even though he assaulted a 15-year-old girl for more than a year.
The married dad of five sensationally quit the DUP in 2002 after his litany of abuse was exposed.
But the Sunday Life newspaper can today reveal that he is back in the organisation in a high-profile position controlling party cash.
A DUP spokesman admitted yesterday: “The Party acted on this matter in 2002.
“Mr Hutchinson withdrew from the party and his council position.
“In 2008 he rejoined the party and is the current treasurer of our Armagh branch.
“The Party will be making no further comment on this matter.”
Confirmation that Hutchinson has rejoined party ranks will be yet another blow to the DUP — still reeling over the Iris Robinson cash and sex scandal.
The revelation also comes as embattled Sinn Fein chief Gerry Adams is under fire for his handling of child abuse allegations facing his younger brother Liam.
Garden centre manager Hutchinson told us yesterday: “I’m just trying to put all that behind me and get on with party work.”
Hutchinson — whose late father Dougie helped found the DUP and was once Ian Paisley’s right-hand man — was booted out of the party in September 2002 after his teen assaults came to light.
He received a police caution for indecent assault — which involves admitting your guilt — and was put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for five years.
Hutchinson was voted in as DUP treasurer of the Armagh branch just one year after his name came off the list.
The party and Hutchinson have insisted he was not in the party in an official role until after his name was removed from the Sex Offenders’ Register.
But yesterday Hutchinson admitted he was invited to DUP bashes in Armagh before he was taken off.
He confessed: “I was at dinners at the area and DUP events from 2002 to 2008.”
Hutchinson, from Woodview, Co Armagh, pleaded that the matter be laid to rest so he could get on with his life.
He said: “I’ve paid for it and came clean in 2002. That’s all I want to say on my feelings about what happened back then.
“It had a big effect on me and my family and forced me to do some big thinking.
“But I had, and still have, my wife’s full support.
“Local people know what happened and I just want to get on with things now.”
Hutchinson’s loyal wife, Shirley, went the extra mile to stand by her man when her husband’s abuse of an under-age girl was exposed.
In a letter to a local paper she said her husband was “not the first man to be tempted and fall”.
She added: “I have to say what Brian did was wrong. I have no argument with that, but when he was found out he didn’t lie, he didn’t deny it or cover it up.
“He confessed everything and acted honourably.
“He told me himself and was very remorseful and repentant, and I have forgiven him totally.”
Hutchinson was first suspended from the DUP in July 2001 and in 2002 quit his council seat and the party.
He said at the time: “I have decided it is best to resign for the sake of the DUP.”
The disgraced unionist said in 2002 that “no sex took place”.
But it emerged he’d been groping his 15-year-old prey for more than a year before he was rumbled.
His systematic abuse only came to light when the under-age girl finally plucked up the strength to tell her mum.
After she exposed Hutchinson, he was back behind the counter of his large nursery business in Co Armagh, which he still runs.
He had held his seat on Armagh council for nine years before he resigned.
Hutchinson succeeded his late dad when he retired from the council in 1993, after 40 years in local government.
His veteran politician father served time in Crumlin Road jail for his part in the notorious Siege of Armagh — when civil rights protestors were blocked from marching through the city centre.
Hutchinson spoke to us yesterday at his nursery, and said he did not want to comment on whether he thought it was suitable that he was back in the party.
He said he was voted back into the DUP in 2008 at the party’s Armagh annual general meeting.
Hutchinson added: “My nomination was put forward by someone, and someone else seconded it.”
When asked for the identities of the politicians who nominated him, he said: “I don’t remember who they are.”
We rang councillor Freda Donnelly to comment on his re-appointment — as she’s a DUP councillor in the Armagh City branch.
She slammed down her phone after snapping: “I have no comment to make.”
Source: The Belfast Telegraph