A 27-year-old man has been released on bail after allegedly assaulting a child with whom he has struck up a friendship which police fear may be “unsavoury in character.”
Januaria Sarmento Ximenes of Braeside, Dungannon is accused of committing the offence on May 13, as well harassing the girl around 10 days later.
A detective constable told Dungannon Magistrates Court the charges could be connected.
He explained police received a complaint from the child alleging she had been assaulted by the defendant while she was in McDonald’s, Dungannon.
CCTV showed her approaching him and “a verbal and physical altercation followed” in which Ximenes allegedly hit the child, pulled her hair and grabbed her nose.
She then went to the toilets, shortly followed by Ximenes, and she claims a further assault took place, although this was out of CCTV range.
Officers tried to locate him and during this time the child contacted police again stating he had been harassing her by phone and asking why she had reported him.
When District Judge Michael Ranaghan enquired if the parties previously knew each other, the detective replied: “It is our understanding they have struck up a friendship and we have concerns it is unsavoury in character.
“We don’t understand the nature of the friendship between them. We are also very concerned this young girl is at risk of child sexual exploitation.”
The detective confirmed Ximenes knows where the child lives and while bail was not directly opposed, concerns remain around the suitability of his address which is in close proximity to the complainant.
An alternative residence in Donaghmore was put forward and while police were more comfortable with this, efforts to contact the occupant were unsuccessful.
Attempts were also made to speak with a person whose name was provided. However, “they didn’t wish to engage”.
A defence solicitor stressed an address “is always going to be an issue”. She said: “My client is from the Tamil community living in close quarter to each other in Dungannon. He has no connections outside that. Attempts have been made to get another address but, in the circumstances, he can’t get anything far enough away to allay police concerns.”
Urging bail to be granted the defence pointed out Ximenes handed himself in to police on learning they were looking for him and he has no previous record of any kind.
Judge Ranaghan took onboard police comments and in respect of child sexual exploitation said nothing disclosed in court pointed to this relating to the defendant.
Nonetheless, he asked the detective if additional efforts are being made to ensure the safety of the child in this respect, and when this was confirmed he stated, “That alleviates my concerns around even a chance meeting with the injured party.”
Bail was agreed and set at £300 with conditions including no contact with the child and Ximenes must notify police if she contacts him.
He is also excluded from the area of the child’s home as well as the McDonald’s Restaurant where the alleged incident occurred.
The case was listed for mention again on June 22.