Ice cream van sex predator jailed for 16-year reign of terror over women and girls in Edinburgh

A sex predator who attacked women and young girls - including in an ice cream van - has been handed an order for lifelong restriction.

John O'Flaherty, 67, was found guilty of seven charges against four victims, including rape, assault, and lewd, indecent and libidinous practices and behaviour.

His crimes spanned from 1980 until 1996 at various locations across Edinburgh, including at a lock-up garage and ice cream van.

His victims were aged between seven and 32, with one a vulnerable teenager.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said one woman was raped while she slept. O'Flaherty also chased a victim with samurai swords while threatening to kill her.

O'Flaherty was snared after the survivors reported his crimes to Police Scotland in 2018.

Edinburgh's public protection unit then spent more than two years gathering evidence against him, which led to his initial arrest in June 2020.

O'Flaherty was convicted in May 2022 following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh. He was eventually sentenced at the High Court in Livingston on Tuesday.

Judge Lord Summers said: "For a variety of reasons it has taken some time for the matter to come back before me for sentencing."

O'Flaherty was ordered to spend at least five years in prison before being eligible for parole and was placed on the sex offenders' register indefinitely.

If released back into the community, he will remain under the supervision of a criminal justice social worker as part of the order for lifelong restriction (OLR) and could find himself back behind bars if he were to commit another crime.

The judge noted that a risk assessment carried out by two experts concluded O'Flaherty was a "high risk to girls and women".

The court also heard he had previously received a 13-year jail sentence after pleading guilty in 2007 to the rape of two girls.

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Katrina Parkes, Scotland's procurator fiscal for high court sexual offences, said: "The victims of John O'Flaherty's depravity have shown great courage and resolve.

"The ordeals they endured at the hands of this man have weighed heavily. Their evidence has ended his appalling criminal behaviour and I hope they now find some small comfort."

Following the court case, Chief Inspector Jonny Wright said the safety and wellbeing of victims was "at the heart" of what officers do.

He added: "I hope the conviction and sentencing of John O'Flaherty highlights that time is no barrier to investigating offences and we will respond to all reports we receive.

"I wish to thank the women he targeted for coming forward and reporting the attacks to police.

"Their continued support of our investigation and their testimony during the trial ultimately led to O'Flaherty's conviction."