A County Armagh man who sexually assaulted his nine-year-old niece on three separate occasions has been jailed for 12 months.
The man, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the victim, was convicted following a jury trial but has since said he is “super sorry for making her go through all this”.
The man, who is in his 20s, was sentenced at Craigavon Crown Court on Friday.
Crown prosecutor Ian Tannahill explained how the crimes came to light when the complainant’s mother contacted police on March 10, 2020.
Earlier that day, before going to school, her daughter complained of genital discomfort. Her mother was then later contacted by the girl’s school with a request that she be collected and taken home.
The person arranged to pick her up from school was, in this instance, the defendant, who took her home to his house – which is also the victim’s grandparents’ home.
Her mother picked her up from that address and when she asked her daughter about the pain she became “upset and tearful”. Her mother was so concerned and found the situation “so strange” that she asked the question if anyone had touched her. The daughter did not want to speak about it, “begging her, ‘mommy please don’t ask me’ but eventually replied that it was her uncle who did it”.
Mr Tannahill said the girl told her mother that her uncle had put his hands down her trousers at her grandmother’s house the previous day and that this wasn’t the only time it had happened.
The victim’s mother then went to her parents’ house where she confronted her brother – the defendant – slapping him in the face.
She then went back outside to her car and while sitting there she could see her father going into the house. She was so concerned as to what might then happen between her father and her brother that she went back into the house, “effectively to protect the brother, whom she was accusing, from her father’s ire”.
Outlining the facts, Mr Tannahill said that on March 9, 2020 the victim was at her grandmother’s house. She went into her uncle’s room and was lying on his bed watching TV when he put his hand underneath her clothes and sexually assaulted her.
Again, on a date between September to December 2019 the complainant recounted an occasion when she’d been lying on her grandmother’s bed when her uncle put his hand under her clothes and again sexually assaulted her.
The third incident occurred in the same time frame but in the victim’s own home this time. She came home to find her uncle waiting to “mind her until her mum got home from work”. She was tired and laying on his lap.
He took that “opportunity to put his hands under clothes and sexually assault her”.
Mr Tannahill stated that the young girl is undergoing counselling as a result of the defendant’s actions.
“We don’t accept that this man is entitled to benefit for eventually accepting what he did,” he added.
“Here is a person who has gone through the entire process, two juries sworn, throughout it all has denied and had his niece – a child – called a liar.”
The defendant’s barrister, in offering up his submissions, said his client was a man with no previous convictions and has since expressed his regret.
He referenced a probation report which quoted the defendant saying: “I feel super sorry for making her go through all this. It has been tormenting me, so I can only guess what it has been like for her.”
He added that his client, who “does retain close family support despite what has happened”, carried out his crimes in an “opportunistic” fashion, opposed to anything pre-planned.
His Honour, Judge Patrick Lynch KC, in handing down his sentence, said: “You were a trusted member of the family and you betrayed that trust.”
The defendant was handed a three year sentence, 12 months of which will be spent in custody and two years on licence.
He was also given a Sexual Offenders’ Prevention Order for seven years and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for an indefinite period.