Man on teen sex charges '˜could commit suicide if named'

A Belfast man accused of meeting a 14-year-old boy for sex after communicating through an online video game must remain in custody, a High Court judge has ruled.

Tuesday, 21st November 2017, 3:37 pm
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 11:15 pm

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan refused bail to the 23-year-old amid claims he used the League of Legends app and Snapchat messaging to contact the alleged victim.

The defendant, categorised as a high-risk sex offender, has been granted anonymity due to fears he would commit suicide if named.

He denies four counts of intentionally engaging in sexual touching on dates between July 1 and October 19.

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Further alleged offences involve breaching a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) by failing to notify authorities of new employment at a bar in the city, and fraud by false representation.

Police launched a fresh investigation into his activities after the boy’s father raised concerns about alleged encounters with the accused.

During a special interview process the teenager said he had been at the accused’s home up to six times after they made contact on Snapchat, the court heard.

He also claimed the pair used the League of Legends game to communicate when they weren’t together.

Crown lawyer Rosie Walsh submitted: “He said they would meet and there was sexual activity... (he) referred to four specific incidents when such activity was engaged in at the applicant’s house.”

One alleged encounter occurred on the day of Belfast’s Gay Pride march.

Referring to the Snapchat exchanges, Ms Walsh continued: “Pictures of a sexual nature were sent from the applicant to (the complainant) and vice-versa.”

The court was told the defendant has been put in the category of offenders classed as posing the highest risk.

It was also alleged that he asked the teenager to contact a solicitor to say previous claims of earlier encounters between the pair had been false.

Opposing bail, Ms Walsh added: “There are very grave concerns about the applicant’s behaviour.”

Defence counsel Mark McGarrity said his client accepted meeting the schoolboy in May, believing at the time that he was older than 14.

Denying any further contact took place, the barrister argued there was a lack of corroborating evidence.

According to Mr McGarrity the anonymity order was put in place due to concerns for the accused’s safety.

“The defendant is a vulnerable person, if his identity was revealed he would most likely commit suicide,” he told the court.

Following submissions Sir Declan expressed concern about the accused’s background and suggested some form of supervised accommodation may be considered in future.

Refusing bail at this stage, however, he said: “He’s a young man and this court is not keen on keeping people of that age in custody, but there are material considerations in relation to public safety.”