A teenager from Co Antrim who pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual activity with 13-year-old girl – despite claiming he was so drunk he cannot remember the incident – has narrowly escaped being sent to jail.
The accused, who was 17 at the time of the incident during the summer of 2013 and who was therefore a child himself, admitted having intercourse with the girl in a bedroom at his friend’s house.
Despite the girl’s assertion that the intercourse was consensual and his claim that he cannot remember what happened due to being drunk, it emerged that police became involved after the girl’s father saw text messages between the two teens on her mobile phone.
The defendant was handed a 12-month sentence, which was suspended for two years, and was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years, after appearing in the dock of Belfast Crown Court.
Judge Stephen Fowler said that despite many young teenage girls maybe believing they are more mature than they actually are, they are still children and therefore need to be protected by the courts.
Crown prosecutor Kate McKay spoke of the age gap between the two as being just over three years, as he had just turned 17 and she was one month off her 14th birthday when they had sex.
Following the discovery of the text messages between the pair, the girl’s father went to the boy’s house to speak to his parents. The defendant, who is now aged 19, was arrested and during interview he claimed he couldn’t remember the incident as he was “very drunk” and “blacked out”.
He also said he had black-outs when he drank due to the medication he was taking for injuries to his legs which were sustained in a prior accident.
The court heard that when the defendant became aware of the visit from the girl’s father, he contacted him and apologised.
Mrs McKay said that when questioned, the girl said she had “gone along” with what he wanted. The prosecutor also pointed out that while the girl was physically quite mature, she was a child and had the mental maturity of a child.
Defence barrister Mark Farrell branded the case as “peculiar” and said had it not been for the delay of bringing the case to court, it should have been dealt with in the Youth Court, given the ages of the boy and girl concerned.
Mr Farrell also spoke of the very serious impact the accident his client suffered had had on his life. He said it left his client taking “heavy” and “strong” medication and painkillers.
After listening to submissions from both the Crown and defence, Judge Fowler said that while he accepted the defendant had suffered as a result of the accident, it seemed he was now living a feckless life.
Regarding the offence itself, Judge Fowler said: “At 13 she was just a child. No matter how mature she might think she was, she was just a child.”
Praising the girl’s father for the actions that he took, the judge added: “She, and girls like her, need to be protected.”