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Northern Ireland news

Councillor Brian Duffin convicted of sexually assaulting teenage girl

Antrim and Newtownabbey councillor Brian Duffin

A 73-year-old councillor was yesterday convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in her home.

Antrim Magistrates Court heard that Brian Duffin "stuck his tongue" into the mouth of the 17-year-old, had one hand on her breast and the other on her inner thigh during the assault in 2016.

The independent councillor – who resigned from the SDLP in February after the case emerged – had denied the charge and sat with his hands clasped during the judge's summing up.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said he had "given the matter careful consideration" but the victim was a "very credible witness" whose account had been "straightforward and matter of fact".

"I could not find any evidence of exaggeration... she is a credible witness and I believe her account," he said.

Freeing Duffin on bail until August 7, Judge Broderick told the Antrim and Newtownabbey councillor he would pass sentence once a probation report was ready.

During a four-hour hearing, a video of a police interview with the victim was played to the court in which she recounted how Duffin sat beside her on a sofa in June 2016.

The teenager described how, when she became upset talking about her ill grandfather, Duffin put his arm around her and asked her for a kiss.

She said that as she went to give him a kiss on the cheek, he grabbed her head and "stuck his tongue down my throat".

She estimated the attack lasted about 10 seconds, and afterwards neither of them spoke, but Duffin put £40 from his wallet on the table and walked out.

Under cross-examination, the teenager denied suggestions she had "misinterpreted what happened".

Giving evidence to the court, Duffin, of Cargin Road in Toomebridge, denied any wrongdoing.

The father-of-11 and grandfather-of-19 repeatedly denied sexually assaulting the teenager, saying: "As a councillor I have a code of conduct that I have to operate under."

Convicting a shocked-looking Duffin, Judge Broderick said allegations of sexual assault where it was one person's word against another were the "most difficult cases to resolve" and told the councillor he "may not agree with my decision but that's for another day".

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