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Horse trader awaiting sentence for child sex offence has bail relaxed to attend formal at Belfast hotel

Dungannon Court

A County Tyrone man awaiting sentencing for sexual activity with a child has successfully applied to have his strict bail conditions temporarily amended to allow him to attend a formal and spend the night in a hotel.

Mark McGurk, 23, a horse trader previously from Cookstown but bailed to reside at Aghinduff Park, Dungannon was originally charged with raping a female child on December 5, 2019, which he denied.

On the morning his trial was to begin at Dungannon Crown Court, McGurk admitted a lesser sexual charge involving the child.

This brought immediate sex-offender registration and the case was adjourned to allow for pre-sentence reports, a medical assessment and a victim impact statement.

Releasing McGurk on continuing bail, Judge Brian Sherrard QC advised this was in no way to be taken as an indication of the final outcome.

However, the admission meant it could be disclosed McGurk is facing a case in the lower court, in which he is accused of stabbing a horse which later died from its injuries.

These matters, which allegedly occurred on 10 June 2019, are denied and a contest is due to be heard at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court next month.

During a review hearing ahead of sentencing in the sex case, defence lawyers requested McGurk’s bail conditions be amended for a short time to allow him to attend a formal at the Europa Hotel in Belfast and stay overnight on 10 February.

Currently McGurk is banned from contacting the victim as well as a number of named witnesses and must not enter the 30mph limit of Cookstown unless for a pre-arranged appointment with his GP. Police are to be notified in advance, and he must leave directly after his appointment.

He is permitted to attend with a vet on two occasions per month, provided police are on notice by arrangement in advance.

There must be no unsupervised contact with any child aged under 18 and those providing supervision must be approved by police and Social Services.

The consumption of alcohol is banned and McGurk is subject to a four hour curfew from 2am to 6am.

While the court relaxed some of these conditions to allow him to attend the formal, additional terms were temporarily added.

McGurk was ordered to provide the name and age of all those he is staying with and must contact the police no later than 5pm of the day in question, providing the hotel room number. He was also ordered to answer the hotel room door to any police check.

Sentencing in the sex case is scheduled to take place later this month.

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