A judge has reiterated his “distaste” for child sexual communication cases being heard in the lower courts.
District Judge Michael Ranaghan made the remarks when sentencing Mark Larmour, of Lakeview Park, Dungannon who committed the offence in June 2019 against a female child.
Dungannon Magistrates’ Court heard how the 31-year-old had previously been in the child’s company at least twice, once while in a car.
One relative also posted on Facebook stating Larmour had sexually messaged the child and police were alerted.
Screenshots showed inappropriate language and a number of images, including Larmour’s face, however the images themselves were not sexual.
When arrested Larmour was wearing the same clothes as in the images.
A defence barrister acknowledged the child was just 13 and that Larmour had made an obscene remark, but stressed all communication occurred in one evening and he did not attempt to hide his identity.
He said: “The child told a relative who posted online, ‘Mark Larmour from Dungannon has been sending (victim) sexual messages.’”
The court heard the defendant has various issues since “being outed on social media and tries to stay within his home. He isn’t burying his head in the sand. He has expressed remorse and knows he was wrong.”
The defence continued: “The case will of course attract publicity. I’ve warned my client he could be imprisoned. He doesn’t feel he could engage in community service, especially after these proceedings are published.”
Judge Ranaghan accepted while none of the images sent were indecent, “some contained sexual references in writing to a child by the defendant. This is distinguished from some other cases but it was a 13-year-old child.”
On enquiry, a prosecuting lawyer advised she had not been requested to seek a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) by her superior, but indicated she would be applying for one.
The defence confirmed this was understood by Larmour and wouldn’t be opposed.
Addressing Larmour directly, Judge Ranaghan said: “It’s important this is right and the public are protected. This is a difficult sentencing exercise. I earnestly feel these offences deserve the gravity that can be brought at crown court. That’s not on the availability of sentencing, but for the understanding those who commit these offences against children need to have and why it must be stopped.”
He pointed out the only thing saving Larmour from immediate imprisonment was a recommendation for immediate supervision and intervention by Probation Services.
“I can impose a maximum of six months. He’ll serve three and then he’ll be out. If he has any proclivities of offending toward children, he’ll do it again. The other option is a Probation Order, which I was tempted to say wasn’t enough. But I am persuaded I can take this option which will run for three years.”
He told Larmour, in that time he must engage fully on all aspects of whatever is required to prevent him offending again.
“Breach that at any time within those three years – which is as long as I can possibly make it – and you will re-sentenced by me. I don’t care where I am, I will be back to do it. You will go to prison for the maximum I can impose.”
Larmour was also made subject to sex offender notification requirements as well as a five year SOPO which allows police to inspect any internet-capable device on demand.