Ex-fighter extradited from Spain to UK arrested on child sex abuse charges

Ex-fighter extradited from Spain to UK arrested on child sex abuse charges

A former soldier spent time in a Spanish prison before being extradited back to the UK, where he was arrested for sexually abusing a young girl. Nottingham Crown Court heard how retiree Ralph Shirley claims he cannot even remember committing the sexual assaults he subjected his underage victim to decades ago.

But after living with it for almost her entire life, the now-woman came forward to police and bravely told them what happened to her when she was very young. And in a victim impact statement, she told her counselor that she had been “walking around with ‘V for victim’ on her head” all along.

Jailing the 79-year-old woman for four years, Judge Stuart Rafferty KC said: “You may have spared her the ordeal of reliving what you did to her by choosing not to have a trial, but equally she has endured a lifetime of suffering because of what you did. You told her she must not tell anyone and that it was a secret between the two of you and she has been left to carry that burden.

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“It may be that because you were sexually abused as a child, if that is true, it would explain why you, yourself, became an abuser, but it can never excuse you. Once a man sexually abuses a child, he is unlikely to lose the desire to do it again.

“Just as you have been sentenced to a life of unhappiness by what happened to you, if true, you have sentenced her to a life of unhappiness. You say you cannot remember the offenses, forgive me if I disagree.”

At a previous hearing, the same court was told the abuse took place decades ago when the victim was very young. Prosecutor David Allan said years before it happened, Shirley had already been convicted of a child sex offence against a younger victim in 1961, when the defendant was a teenager.

He read out a victim impact statement made by the new victim, who appeared via a link to courtroom three at this week’s hearing. In it, she said: “What happened to me as a child changed my life, I went off the rails as a teenager, I was angry and my first real relationship was an abusive one.

“I have therapy and my counselor told me that I’ve been walking around with ‘V for victim’ in my head. But he hasn’t ruined my life, and I’m not going to let him.

“It will no longer have an impact on me.” Shirley, now of Coin, Malaga, Spain, pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a child and has four previous convictions for seven offences, including the 1961 child sex offence.

Matt Smith, mitigating, said his client moved to Spain 14 years ago and set up a business making wrought iron gates. He said: “He spent six years serving his country, including periods in Borneo, and was given a compassionate discharge when his father died. While waiting to be extradited he spent time in Malaga prison.”

In addition to the prison sentence, Shirley will be placed on the sex offenders registry for the rest of her life.