A Co. Armagh man who sexually assaulted a 16-year girl whilst he was a stay provider for people who had spent long periods in care has been handed a suspended prison sentence.
Court heard the male placed his hand on the vagina of the girl over her clothes under the guise of helping her climb a tree at Gosford Forest Park in 2015.
The defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced for sexual assault at Armagh Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.
It was heard that on January 27, 2017, police received a report from Social Services who had been informed of the incident by the injured party.
She stated the offence took place on July 28, 2015, whilst her older sister was in the care of the defendant.
The injured party had been visiting her sister when the defendant took them to Gosford Forest Park.
It is here the injured party said the defendant placed his hand on her vagina over her clothes in the guise of helping her climb a tree.
This lasted, according to her, for a period of 10 to 20 seconds and she believed that this was a deliberate act.
The defendant was interviewed with regards to this but left before answering police questions.
Whilst in the dock at contest, court heard the defendant said nothing accidental or intentional, happened on that date.
He also stated that the injured party and her sister were good girls who were trustworthy.
Defence barrister Ciara Ennis said: “This incident occurred whilst he was a stay provider. He offered his home to teach essential skills to people leaving long term care.
“He and his wife did this for a long time. During that there was never any negative report.”
She continued: “Soon after this allegation was reported this arrangement ceased, however, following the incident the sister continued to leave with him and the injured party continued to visit.
“The complainant was 16 at the time and in foster care; his was a brief encounter over clothing.”
Ms Ennis stated: “It is accepted that the aggravating feature, in this case, is that this man was in a position of trust but this was a one-off incident.
“He has been suspended from work, his position of employment will be lost. The pre-sentence report is helpful. It says he has a low likelihood of reoffending.”
District Judge Paul Copeland said: “This was reprehensible conduct for a man charged with ensuring the supervision and welfare of this young girl.
“You were placed in a position of trust, not only by the state authorities but by this child.”
He continued: “I am satisfied you and your family delivered sterling service in childcare over a long period; this fall from grace can be seen as an aberration of judgement.
“There is no issue over premeditation, this is what is colloquially known as losing the run of yourself and you overstepped the mark by a mile.”
The defendant was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for two years.
He was ordered to pay the injured party compensation of £1,000 and was placed on the Sexual Offender’s register for seven years.
Ms Ennis informed the court that the defendant wished to fix bail to appeal. He was released on his own bail of £500 with the condition not to contact the complainant.