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Man who sexually assaulted two young girls in Dornoch faces jail

By Court Reporter

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Francis Ward
Francis Ward

A former foster carer was warned this week he faces a jail sentence after sexually assaulting two young girls in a Sutherland village.

Francis Ward (69) molested the children when one was aged eight and another from when she was 11 years old in Dornoch.

The older girl told the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday: "He would just call me sexy and say I had a good body."

She said she was "too scared" to speak to anyone about what was happening to her. She said that he told her if she spoke to anyone her family would be hurt.

The woman, now aged 20, told advocate depute Richard Goddard QC that she later got the courage to speak up and told support workers who were helping her at the time.

Ward, now retired, had denied four charges involving the two girls but was found guilty of carrying out two sexual assaults, observing an underage girl in a private act and directing a sexual communication to her.

The jury deleted the most serious aspect of one of the assault charges which alleged that he had raped the older girl.

The offences occurred between 2012 and 2014.

Following the verdict the court heard that Ward, of Wallasey, Liverpool, was previously convicted at a sheriff court of sending sexual communications to children and was given a community payback order and a restriction of liberty order in 2017.

Defence counsel Brian McConnachie QC said of Ward: "He is a man who has not kept good health."

He asked that Ward be granted bail ahead of sentencing next month, particularly because of deletions made by the jury in the most serious charge, while a background report is prepared on him.

Mr McConnachie said: "While the inevitable sentence is one of imprisonment, one would imagine, the offences are seven years old. There is no obvious danger so far as Mr Ward is concerned."

The judge said she was prepared to allow his bail to be continued and placed him on the sex offenders' register.

Police praised the "immense courage" shown by the victims and their families during the investigation.

Detective Inspector Anna Johnston, of the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit, said: "These young children trusted Ward. However, he violated this trust and abused these children when they were at their most vulnerable.

"I would like to thank the victims and their families for their assistance during this inquiry.

"It is very difficult to speak about these types of crimes and they have showed immense courage during this investigation.

"I hope that his conviction can bring them some solace in that the person responsible for these despicable actions has been held to account and they can now move forward with their lives.

"This conviction should send out a clear message that Police Scotland is committed to bringing the perpetrators of sexual offences to justice, while providing all the relevant support and assistance to those that require it."

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