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Three-year jail term for man who groomed and sexually assaulted child

Defendant's offending caused "significant harm" to the victim, judge said

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A man found guilty of sexually assaulting and grooming a child has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Gavin Gowdy (36), of Dingwell Park in Lurgan, appeared at Craigavon Crown Court on Friday for sentencing.

He will serve one year in custody and the remainder on licence.

The defendant had pleaded not guilty but had been convicted on January 20 by a jury on three charges – sexual communication with a child, meeting a child following sexual grooming and sexual assault on a child under 13.

The offences relate to one child and took place between March 1, 2017 and May 31, 2017.

Judge Roseanne McCormick QC outlined how the defendant had messaged his victim on Facebook asking her if she had ever kissed anyone or had sex.

The next day when she went to his flat, he asked ‘do you want to?’ which she interpreted as an invitation to try kissing and sex.

He then breathed on her neck, tickled her and sexually assaulted her by touching her leg.

She protested and got off the sofa but he said he was only messingĀ and she sat back down.

However, the defendant persisted in the sexual assault and the victim ran to the door. Before leaving, he made her delete the sexualised messages he had sent her.

Passing sentence, the judge noted that the defendant was 19 years older than his victim.

Judge McCormick acknowledged the victim’s “courage and resilience” in reporting the offence and participating in the trial and agreed with the prosecution’s submission that the defendant aspired to have sexual intercourse with the victim.

In a victim impact statement, the victim, who is now in her teens, cited loss of employment, compromised educational achievement, psychological impact and suicidal ideation.

A consultant psychologist said the offences had affected the victim psychologically and physically, including a negative self-belief related to vulnerability.

Judge McCormick said the defendant had initially denied the offending but since then had acknowledged to his psychiatrist – “I am disgusted with myself for doing what the girl said I did”.

She said she welcomed this and hoped this would help the victim come to terms with what had happened.

But she said she had come to the conclusion that the defendant’s offending had caused “significant harm” to the victim.

The court heard that as of January this year, the defendant had 25 convictions, mainly for offences of dishonesty, road traffic offences and some physical assaults.

None were for sexual offences.

A defence barrister had previously argued that the defendant’s actions, whilst abhorrent, were at the lower end of the spectrum as they consisted of the touching of the leg over clothes, with the assault lasting less than one minute.

A psychologist report also set out his struggles with gambling, alcohol, and various prescription medications as well as anxiety and depression.

In addition to the prison term, the defendant was made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, disqualified from working with children and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register.

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