Northern Ireland news

Teenager who raped 12-year-old girl in Waterworks Park to serve 18 months behind bars

The 12-year-old was raped by a teenager she had met on social media. Picture by Hugh Russell.

AN 18-year old who raped a child in bushes in the Waterworks park in north Belfast after the pair met on social media has been jailed for 18 months.

The defendant, who was 16 at the time of the sex attack and studying for his GSCEs, was convicted by a jury earlier this year of raping a 12-year old and sexually assaulting her.

Sending the student to Hydebank YOC, Judge McFarland branded the rape of a child as a "serious offence", and spoke of the lasting impact the incident will have on the young victim.

Belfast Crown Court heard that since the incident in May 2017, the victim was admitted to hospital after she self-harmed and took tablets, and has trouble concentrating on her school work.

Crown barrister Philip Mateer QC also revealed she had been subjected to "name-calling on social media, even thought she was the victim in all of this." He added: "Given her youth and the trauma involved, this is not something that is going to easily lessen ... it will continue to regularly enter into intrusive thoughts in her mind."

During the trial, the jury heard evidence from both the girl and the man. The pair first came into contact on Facebook and, after a series of texts were exchanged, they agreed to meet in the park on the evening of May 17 2017.

After a very brief conversation the pair went into bushes where sexual activity took place. The court heard that due to her age, the girl was not legally able to consent as she was so young - and that while she may have agreed to some activity, other inflicted on her was not consented to and was "forced by coercive behaviour."

The defendant has always made the case that he thought the girl was older than 12. She told him before they met that she was 14, whilst her Facebook profile stated she was born in 1999.

During today's sentencing, Judge McFarland noted that after the defendant met Probation, it was the probation officer's view that he maintains he didn't do anything wrong.

This was disregarded by defence barrister Eilis McDermott QC, who said: "I can assure the court, the defendant is in absolutely no doubt that he did wrong."

Ms McDermott said her client had a clear criminal record, had a supportive family, was "rather naive for his age" and had a low IQ.

Addressing the 18-year old, Judge McFarland said what occurred on the evening in question will impact on "her future life and future relationships." He told the defendant there was an element of pre-planning, that he exposed her to unprotected sex which carried risks of pregnancy or STDs and that force was used.

The Belfast Recorder also noted that while the incident will have a lasting effect on her, there will also be long-lasting consequences for the defendant, and said: "The rape of a 12-year old girl is a particularly serious offence - but I have to take into account the fact that you were only 16 at the time."

The defendant was also made the subject of Sexual Offences Prevention Order for ten years which bans him from working with children.

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