A man has been jailed for what a judge described as, “particularly sinister sexual abuse” of his stepdaughter who looked on him as her father.
Dungannon Crown Court heard the girl was abused between the ages of five and nine and has been left frightened, distressed and confused that someone she loved could hurt her so badly.
Aged in his forties, the defendant who cannot be identified to protect the child, admitted multiple sexual assaults between May 2012 and October 2016.
A charge of physical assault was also accepted in which he slapped her with a belt.
The child first reported the abuse in 2019 but the defendant denied all allegations when interviewed by police, except slapping her with the belt.
While awaiting trial, he contacted police and made a series of admissions to, “a slew of sexual other offences against the child.”
The abuse began after the defendant entered into a relationship with the child’s mother. When he put her to bed, he would place his hand inside her pyjamas, instructing her to tell no-one.
When the relationship ended, the defendant moved out but the child would often spend weekends with him at his residence.
On these occasions he would sexually abuse the child, refusing to stop and let her go home when she asked.
Eventually she declined to go to his house.
Judge Brian Sherrard QC noted in police interview the defendant said touching occurred “no more than 20 times but in a phone call to officers beforehand he referred to abuse taking place hundreds of times, then refused to answers questions on the disparity”.
The defendant accepted carrying out sexual acts on himself while abusing the child.
Despite this, when matters reached court, the charges were denied.
A trial date was set, although due to witness difficulties this was adjourned.
While awaiting a new date the defendant again contacted police and admitted all charges.
A pre-sentence report indicated he accepted his offending behaviour was “to meet his sexual needs and he targeted the child for that purpose”.
Judge Sherrard told the defendant: “You then retreat from the full extent of your offending, denying the abuse lasted five years and insisting it only occurred on a few occasions …You touched this child at an age which rendered her vulnerable.
“The impact is starkly presented. She talks of sadness and could not understand why her father, whom she loved so much, could hurt her so badly. Her confidence is affected, and she lacks trust in men. There are implications on her mental well-being as the abuse dominates her thinking. Her mood, sleep and relationships with family and friends are affected.”
He continued: “The abuse was particularly sinister when she was in your home, alone and in your exclusive care … you are addicted to cannabis which is a possible explanation for your appalling behaviour, although no excuse. Your attitude to offending is confused. You accept you targeted the victim for sexual gratification then say you aren’t attracted to children. You made admissions indicating insight yet retreat from full acceptance.
“Disturbingly, you appear to suggest the victim aged five, was the author of the sexual interaction and she liked it. Your views are distorted.”
The defendant was jailed for four-and-a-half years and will remain on the Sex Offender Register for life, along with a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for 10 years.