Northern Ireland news

Jail for man who assaulted internet groomed schoolgirl

A 30-year-old man who admitted sexual activity with a schoolgirl was sentenced to 12 months. Picture by Hugh Russell
Staff Reporter

A 30-YEAR-OLD married man who admitted sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl he'd met on the internet was sentenced to 12 months yesterday and put on the sex offenders' register for ten years.

Aiden Hughes, with an address at Balmoral Roads, Bangor, Co Down, was also subject to a 10-year sexual offences prevention order which disqualifies him from working with children, restricts his internet use and means he must live at an address approved by the authorities.

Prosecution lawyer Robin Steer told Belfast Crown Court that Hughes had met the girl on a social networking site, pretending to be a 14-year-old called Matt Smith, and began exchanging emails.

At first everything was normal but the messaging soon became sexualised.

Mr Steer said Hughes asked for meetings, before eventually saying he was aged 20, and that his name was Aiden.

The girl reported that he made her feel "a little bit sorry for him" and agreed to meet up in a Belfast park. During their walk he touched her over her clothes.

Defence solicitor Mark O'Connor said Hughes' marriage was going through difficulties at the time and he had gone on internet meeting sites to escape his problems.

He said Hughes was deeply ashamed of his actions and had a low likelihood of re-offending.

Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told Hughes that while the actual sexual touching could be regarded as trivial, what occurred had had an impact on the young schoolgirl.

He said Hughes' offending warranted a custodial sentence.

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