Former vicar jailed after dying victim gave evidence using eye-tracking technology

10/03/2017

A former vicar who abused a choirboy more than 35 years ago has been jailed for four years after his victim gave evidence using eye-tracking technology which turned his blinks into words.

Cyril Rowe, 78, was sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court today [Friday 10 March 2017] after being found guilty of three counts of indecent assault at a Hackney church between 1979 and 1981.

His victim died of motor neurone disease in a hospice before hearing that his abuser had been found guilty but had achieved his dying wish of givin g evidence against Rowe despite his failing health, which rendered him unable to speak or write.

The Crown Prosecution Service applied for special measures to enable the 47-year-old to give his evidence during the trial from his hospice over a video link.

He also had the help of an intermediary and eye-tracking technology helping him describe how Rowe would lock the church door, pin him down and sexually abuse him, before apologising and giving him £1.

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.”

Notes:

  • Rowe was sentenced to four years' imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently.
  • Correction: this press release originally incorrectly said a church in Tower Hamlets. The church was in fact in Stoke Newington, Hackney.