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Prominent loyalist Mark Harbinson is no stranger to the legal system

Prominent loyalist Mark Harbinson is no stranger to the legal system. Picture by Pacemaker Press

PROMINENT loyalist Mark Harbinson is no stranger to the legal system.

Cleared yesterday on firearms and ammunition offences, the 51-year-old has a conviction for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl he met when he was a leading member of the Pride of the Village Flute Band in Stoneyford.

During his trial prosecutors said Harbinson had sexually assaulted the girl at an Orange Hall in the Co Antrim village. He was arrested three days after topless pictures of the girl were discovered by police on his mobile phone.

He received a three-and-a-half-year sentence.

A member of the Orange Order, Harbinson rose to prominence during the Drumcree dispute in Portadown in the years leading up to his conviction.

He was expelled from the organisation in the wake of the sentencing.

In 2012, he shouted "no surrender" in a courtroom outburst as he failed in a bid to overturn his convictions.

A year later, he re-involved himself with The Pride of the Village flute band - of which he was a founding member - despite a court order banning him from having involvement with voluntary groups or charitable organisations.

A court heard that in May 2013, he telephoned and then wrote an email to the Parades Commission in protest at restrictions they had imposed on the flute band, signing it 'Mark Harbinson, Pride of the Village spokesman'.

The following year, he was handed a three-month suspended sentence after being found guilty of breaching a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, which bans him from having contact with anyone under the age of 18.

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