An 18-year-old has been banned from working with children and placed on the sex offenders register for five years after he was found guilty of raping a child in the Waterworks area of Belfast.
The accused, who was 16 at the time and studying for his GSCEs, was released on bail ahead of sentencing next month.
Following a week-long trial held at Belfast Crown Court, a jury of six men and six women spent over eight hours deliberating three charges before returning the ‘guilty’ verdicts.
During the trial, both the girl and the defendant gave evidence. Both confirmed to the court that they met on Facebook a few weeks prior to meeting in person at the Waterworks in north Belfast on the evening of May 17, 2017.
The girl admitted she lied on her Facebook profile about her age, and also lied to the defendant before they met up, telling him she was 14 when in fact she was 12.
They also both agreed that the incident occurred in a wooded area in the park, and while the girl claimed she was dragged into the bushes, the defendant claimed they walked in together.
The girl said he said to her ‘do you want to do stuff?’, to which she replied ‘no’, then he took her jeans off and subjected her to a sexual assault before bending her over and raping her twice.
She said at one point, he told her “get on your knees”, which she refused to do, and that the incident came to an end when they heard people close by and he pulled his tracksuit bottoms up and ran off.
This version of events was rejected by the defendant, who from the witness box denied sexually assaulting and raping the girl. Instead, he claimed they agree ‘to do stuff’, that they had consensual intercourse, and that at one point he asked her if he wanted to stop, but she told him to keep going.
When it was put to him that prior to meeting, she had messaged him and told him she was 14, he said he thought this was a typo, as she had put on her Facebook that she was 17.
When asked what age he thought the girl was, he said he had no reason not to believe she wasn’t the age she said she was on Facebook and that “she knew what age I was and she still agreed to meet me of her own free will ... I never lied about my age.”
The defendant also told the court and jury during the trial that the girl didn’t seem distressed and was not crying. And when it was put to him that the incident only came to an end when they heard voices and he ran off, he rejected this and said “that’s not true ... we hugged” and he offered to walk her home.
In the week-long trial, the jury also heard from a doctor who specialises in young victims of sexual offences. The doctor examined the girl in the wake of the incident, and found abrasions and bruising in her private area.
Following deliberations which spanned over a two-day period, the defendant was found guilty by a majority of ten to two on a charge of sexual assault, and of anal rape. He was also found unanimously guilty by the jury of vaginal rape.
Judge David McFarland, who has presided over the trial, thanked the jury for their service and ordered the preparation of a number of reports ahead of sentencing, which is due to take place on March 20.