Foster carer sexually assaulted two girls aged eight and 11

Francis Ward abused two children between 2012 and 2014.

Foster carer sexually assaulted two girls aged eight and 11 SNS Group
High Court: Ward facing jail term.

A former foster carer has been warned he faces a jail sentence after sexually assaulting two young girls in the Highlands.

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

The 69-year-old called the older girl “sexy” and told her that she “had a good body” before warning her family “would be hurt” if she told anyone about the abuse.

During the trial at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday she said this left her “too scared” to speak to anyone about what was happening to her.

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 of sending sexual communications to children at a sheriff court 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.

The victims have been praised for their “immense courage” during the trial.

Detective Inspector Anna Johnston from 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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