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Loughgall man (58) admits sexual assault on young girl after telling probation he was attracted to her

'You were attracted to this girl and tried to justify this to probation by mentioning her height'

Armagh Courthouse

A Loughgall man who touched the bottom of a 13-year-old girl in a shop must wait until next month to hear his sentence.

Court heard the 58-year-old told probation that he was attracted to this young girl and tried to justify this by referring to her height.

Thomas Ronald Rowe, 58, of Orchard Park, pleaded guilty to sexual assault at Armagh Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

Court heard that on July 25, police were contacted by a man who stated his young daughter had been touched inappropriately by a male in a Co Armagh store the previous day.

Officers watched CCTV footage which showed the defendant reach out his hand and brush his fingers over the girl’s bottom at around 11.50am.

When interviewed about the incident, Rowe denied the offence claiming that it had been an accident.

Deputy District Judge Brian Archer stated: “I am very concerned when interviewed he did not admit the offence and denied that this had been for a sexual purpose.”

Defence barrister Seamus Lannon said: “I ask that he is given credit for his early plea. Once he was showed the video he recognised what he had done was wrong.”

District Judge Archer stated: “He knew what he did was wrong at the time. I am concerned that he told probation he was attracted to the [young girl] and justified this by saying that she was tall.

“Regardless of the age of the injured party, even if it had been an adult this was wrong.”

Mr Lannon said: “This man worked for a number of years until he lost his job after a downturn in business. He hasn’t come to police attention for anything other than this offence his whole life.”

He added: “Mr Rowe spent three months on remand for this offence in custody and the maximum sentence available is six months.”

Court heard that the defendant was living with his mother after being granted bail at the High Court last Friday.

Mr Lannon commented that “a period of probation” would be the best sentence for Rowe for him to “deal with his problems”.

District Judge Archer stated: “You have entered a guilty plea for which you get credit. Your conduct is concerning. This was certainly frightening for this young girl and this was not an accident but for your own satisfaction.

“You were attracted to this girl and tried to justify this to probation by mentioning her height.”

He commented that Rowe had served the equivalent of six months in prison and therefore if given a custodial sentence he would “walk out of the dock today”.

The district judge suggested a probation order in the region of two years would be his sentencing on the matter.

A representative from probation informed court that the defendant could not reside at his current address if an order was imposed unless the property had been assessed.

Prosecution also stated that time would be needed for the consideration of Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

District Judge Archer adjourned the case until March 12 for these to be carried out before sentencing.

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