A 30-year-old married man who admitted sexual activity with a schoolgirl he had met on the internet was sentenced to 12 months on Thursday and put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years.
Aiden Hughes, with an address at Balmoral Road, Bangor, was also made the subject of a 10-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order disqualifying him from working with children, restricting his use of the internet and ordering him to live at an address aproved by the authorities.
Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told Hughes that while the actual sexual touching could be regarded as trivial, what occurred had an impact on the then 14-year-old and it could not be ignored or forgotten.
An aggravating feature of the case was the false persona he had given her in which he lied about his age – giving one of considerable difference of up to 12 years – and that in addition to contact being made on the internet, it was also made on a mobile phone.
Judge McFarland said that, in such cases, personal mitigation had little impact and he believed that Hughes’ offending required a custodial sentence, and that the sentence should not be suspended.
This was necessary, he added, so that Hughes and others like him realise that this type of activity where adults deliberately make contact with children for sexual activity would not be tolerated.
Hughes said Judge McFarland had met a young girl and sexually assaulted her, and that, “in my view, that does deserve jail”, although he was prepared to give him credit for his guilty plea.
Earlier, prosecution lawyer Robin Steer told the Crown Court that Hughes had met the girl on a social networking site, pretending to be a 14-year-old called Matt Smith and began exchanging emails.
At first everything was normal, but the messaging soon became sexualised.
Mr Steer said Hughes asked for meetings, before eventually admitting he was aged 20 and that his name was Aiden.
The girl reported that he made her feel “a little bit sorry for him” and agreed to meet up in a Belfast park.
There, during a walk, he abused her, touching her over her clothes.
Defence solicitor Mark O’Connor of Larkin, O’Connor and Cassidy, described Hughes as a young man who did an extremely stupid thing.
At the time, his marriage was going through difficulities and he went on social meeting sites to escape the stress of his problems.
Mr O’Connor said that Hughes was deeply ashamed of his actions and, according to an extremely positive pre-sentence report, had shown a level of victim awareness and is considered a low likelihood of reoffending.