A Newtownhamilton man who indecently assaulted two young girls on four separate occasions when he was a teenager, and then as an adult, has been jailed for nine months.
James Patrick Shortt, of Dungormley Estate, who continues to deny the offences – which date between March 1997 and April 2008 – was found guilty by a jury at Newry Crown Court in March.
During his sentencing hearing at Laganside Crown Court today (Tuesday), His Honour Judge Reel KC also handed the 40-year-old a 12 month supervision order on completion of his prison term.
The court heard how Shortt was 14 or 15 at the time of the first set of offences which occurred against the first victim – who was considerably younger – over a summer period.
The first of three incidents occurred when the girl was riding her horse when the defendant – also seated on the horse – reached around and indecently assaulted her.
The second incident occurred in a barn at the back yard of the defendant’s family home. The girl was looking at kittens with a number of other girls. He then chased the other girls out before lifting his young victim from behind. He sat her down and then proceeded to carry out the offence.
In relation to the third incident, he took the victim into a donkey barn, lay her down on the ground and pressed on her shoulders with his knees. As he faced her, he reached behind and indecently assaulted her once more.
The fourth count of indecent assault occurred against his second victim, who was also under the age of 13. Shortt was aged between 21 and 24.
The defendant came into the bedroom and pushed the door over until it was almost closed. He then proceeded to indecently assault the young girl. The incident stopped when the victim moved her arm and made a noise.
Judge Reel stated that he read victim impact statements from both complainants where they outlined “the suffering that the abuse has caused them as they made their way through life”.
He further outlined how Shortt, a father of five, attempted to turn his hand to farming after inheriting some land, but “he lacked the background or training and he accumulated some convictions in relation to farm management regulations”.
In a pre-sentence report, the probation service alluded to the defendant’s age at the time of the first set of offences, however, “that at the time he appeared to have understood that his actions were wrong, because he threatened his victim against reporting what he was doing”.
Probation also noted that “at the time of the second offence…he was then in a consensual relationship, and indeed was the father of a very young child”, adding that “while his denial of the offences make their task more difficult probation say that he is now a more mature man and has five daughters and this may have helped him understand how wrong it was to have sexually interfered with children”.
Before being led away to begin his prison sentence, Shortt’s defence made an application that he be allowed to attend a doctor’s appointment in Newtownhamilton on Friday.
Judge Reel rejected the request stating that the primary care practitioners within the prison could take care of any medical requirements.