Teen sexually assaulted on her school bus

An alcoholic pensioner who sexually assaulted a young teenager on her school bus was handed a four month prison sentence today.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 1:26 pm
Ballymena Courthouse. INBT02-213AC

However 72-year-old Tom McNeill walked free from Coleraine Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, after District Judge Peter King suspended the sentence for two years.

“I have absolutely no doubt that this young girl was terrified by these entirely unwelcome and uninvited advances,” said the judge who ordered McNeill to sign the police sex offenders register for the next seven years.

Following a contest “on the papers” earlier this year McNeill, from Riverview Park in Armoy, was convicted of a single count of sexual assault of a child under 13.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Summing up the facts of the case today a prosecuting lawyer told the court that on 4 March last year, police received a 999 call about a sexual assault on a school bus which was heading to Coleraine station with the suspect still on board.

When it arrived, officers spoke to the driver who reported how a young passenger had told him her friend had been “sexually assaulted by an older man” so he had pulled over and spoke to the girl himself.

The schoolgirl victim described how the man, who transpired to be McNeill, “touched her knee numerous times and felt her hair, asking her questions such as where she lived,” said the lawyer adding that his actions “made her feel extremely uncomfortable.”

Continuing on with the journey, the victim got off at the next stop and the driver told McNeill to “sit at the front of the bus where he could see him” until the bus got into the station where police were waiting.

He was arrested but was so drunk, “at one point he wet himself” and wasn’t fit to be interviewed until the following day and even then, McNeill said he could remember getting on the bus but nothing else because he ass so intoxicated.

Defence counsel Francis Rafferty submitted it was “an offence borne out of alcohol” and said McNeill had a completely clear record.

Mr King told McNeill it was “quite clear the only reason you are standing here is because of your disastrous relationship with alcohol.”

In addition to the suspended sentence, the judge also imposed a two year Sexual Offences Prevention Order which bars the pensioner from using public transport at school times.