A Devon paedophile who twice groped a teenage girl in her own Co Armagh home was handed a 12 month sentence on Friday.
In addition to the sentence with half to be spent in jail and half on licence, 34-year-old William Pope was also ordered to sign the police sex offenders register for ten years and banned from working with children.
Pope, from Stonelands Park, Dawlish in Devon, had entered guilty pleas to two counts of sexual assault on a date unknown between December 5, 2018 and May 1, 2021 by touching his young victim sexually.
Prosecuting counsel Nicola Auret told Craigavon Crown Court how the offences came to light in December 2021 when the teenager disclosed to a counsellor that Pope had twice abused her.
That disclosure lead to a police investigation with the victim describing to detectives how she had been 14 when Pope was at her home and when he “pulled her in for a cuddle,” he stuck his hand up her top, felt her breasts, moved over her stomach and then put his hand in her pants.
Pope asked her “do you like it when I touch you there,” said Ms Auret but the victim “kept telling him that she needed the toilet, he got frustrated and told her to leave.”
Turning to events in April 2021, the barrister said there was a party in the teenager’s house and she had been drinking alcohol when Pope “carried her up to bed,” seizing the opportunity to grope her breasts again.
Arrested and questioned by police, Pope denied doing anything wrong, a stance he maintained until 12 days before his trial was due to start.
Ms Auret submitted there were multiple aggravating features to the offending including the fact the girl was twice abused in her own home where “she should have felt safe.”
Defence counsel Joel Lindsay said while he accepted the aggravating features, he submitted there were also mitigating factors including Pope’s clear record, guilty plea and genuine remorse, “recognising the pain that he has caused this young lady.”
He also conceded that although the custody threshold had been crossed, there was also a possibility that Pope could be put on an intensive probation programme designed to address the underlying causes of his offending.
“Society I know could yell an objection to that and say that’s outrageous, that probation programme is not an easy option,” argued Mr Lindsay.
Judge Patrick Lynch KC said he accepted that Pope’s guilty plea had spared his victim the ordeal of testifying in a public arena and also that Pope had not offended before or since but that given the offences, “a custodial sentence is appropriate.”
In addition to the 12 month sentence, the judge also imposed a five year Sexual Offences Prevention Order which bars the pervert from contacting his victim, prohibits him from loving anywhere without permission and compels him to make verifiable disclosure of his convictions to any new partner.