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Rape trial averted as horse trader admits lesser sexual charge with child victim

Co Tyrone man also faces separate trial for allegedly stabbing a horse which later died of its injuries

Dungannon Court

A Co Tyrone man who was due to go on trial for rape has pleaded guilty to a lesser sexual charge involving a child, on the day his case was scheduled to begin.

It can now also be revealed he faces charges in a lower court in which he allegedly stabbed a horse which later died from its injuries.

Mark McGurk (23), a horse trader from Glenpark Road, Gortin, and previously from Cookstown, was originally charged with rape and attempted rape of the young victim.

He pleaded not guilty at Dungannon Crown Court but an alternative charge of sexual activity involving penetration with a child was agreed by the Prosecution, which McGurk accepted.

The incident occurred on October 5, 2019.

Running alongside this, although not connected, was a case in Dungannon Magistrates Court, alleging McGurk stabbed a horse, which later died.

He previously could not be named in that matter while awaiting trial before a jury in the sexual case.

The guilty plea 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 until January 17, Judge Brian Sherrard QC advised this was in no way to be taken as an indication of the final outcome.

Meanwhile, on the same day but in a different courtroom, McGurk’s other case was mentioned.

He denies damaging the horse which belonged to another person and causing it unnecessary suffering on June 10, 2019.

He further denied being in possession of an offensive weapon, namely a knife.

These matters are before Dungannon Magistrates Court.

Previously, District Judge Michael Ranaghan warned he will impose the maximum penalty available if McGurk continues to contest the charges.

On that occasion the case was listed to secure a date for hearing. However, Judge Ranaghan remarked: “I have read the details of this matter as it piqued my interest given the nature of the charges. I cannot see what the defence could be. Unless I’m missing something, there is no contest.”

The defence replied: “I have issued advices but my client continues to deny the offences.”

Judge Ranaghan continued: “Given what he allegedly did to that animal there’s only one outcome, especially if he contests it, and given the nature of the cruelty involved, he is looking at the maximum I can do.”

He said the vet who provided evidence should not be required to attend court and “reluctantly” listed a contest for hearing in January.

Judge Ranaghan told the defence: “I appreciate your endeavours to get this man to face reality. However, I’d like a personal warning to go from me that if he doesn’t see sense, I will be giving the maximum penalty and I may consider consecutive sentences if I can do so. That gives him a very  firm position of where the court is on this. Hopefully the penny will drop.”

At the latest review the court heard McGurk maintains his position and the matter will run as a contest.

A further review ahead of that will take place later this month.

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