Three years probation for Lagan towpath sex attacker

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A senior judge has ordered a Belfast man to spend the next three years on probation for sexually asasulting a woman on a towpath.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC told Trevor Mulholland that “society would be better protected’’ with him receiving assistance and supervision for his sexual offending.

Mulholland, 37, of Ardenlee Gardens off the Ravenhill Road, had pleaded guilty to a charge of sexually touching the woman without her consent.

Prosecution lawyer Kate McKay told Belfast Crown Court that the victim had left her work in Belfast city centre on the evening of June 1, 2016 and went for a walk along the Lagan towpath wearing her headphones.

She told police she passed Mulholland sitting on a bench and as she walked along the towpath he followed her and “tapped her on the shoulder’’.

“She felt unnerved by this and tried to call someone on her mobile phone,’’ said Mrs McKay. “He continued to follow her and she heard him say: ‘Here love, come and give me one’.’’

Judge Kerr heard Mulholland grabbed her by the arm, leading her to fall to the ground and dropping her phone.

“She tried to retrieve it but he put his foot on it. She kicked out at him three to five times into his groin area and screamed for help.’’

The court was told that it was then that Mulholland sexually assaulted her as she lay on the ground.

The victim phoned police and the judge heard that she suffered a number of cuts and bruises as a result of the attack.

Mrs McKay said that an aggravating factor was that Mulholland had been convicted in 1999 for an offence of a similar nature.

She told the judge that the complainant said in her victim impact statement that the attack had had a “bad psychological effect on her’’.

“She felt unsafe in Belfast and has now left Northern Ireland to go to England. The attack has had quite a considerable impact on her.’’

The Probation Service has assessed Mulholland as a high risk of reoffending but said did not pose a danger to the public.

Mulholland told a probation officer that he “can guarantee that he would not be tempted to do something of this nature again’’.

Defence counsel Eilis McDermott QC said Mulholland had a long history of mental ill health and had spent 10 years in Muckamore Hospital.

She told the court that at the time of the offence Mulholland felt “stress building up within himself’’.

Ms McDermott said that not only was Mulholland open to receiving help from the Probation Service “he is anguished to receive it’’.

Judge Kerr said that as the sexual assault was at the lower end of the scale, he could only send to prison for a short period followed by a short period of licence.

“I consider that the proper course is that he is put on probation for three years which will give him time to complete the sexual offenders course.’’

The judge ordered Mulholland to be made the subject of a notification period for five years and the subject of a Sexual Offenders Prevention Order for seven years.