Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Flushed out

Ten men, including a church elder and ex-police reservist, engaged in sex acts in a public toilet.

Ten Ulster men last night avoided prison after admitting their part in a cottaging ring in public lavatories in Coleraine.

Ten Ulster men last night avoided prison after admitting their part in a cottaging ring in public lavatories in Coleraine.

The men, including a church elder and ex-police reservist, were caught on CCTV engaging in sex acts alone and with other men at the urinals in the toilets at Railway Road in the town.

At North Antrim Magistrates Court, all ten pleaded guilty to intentionally engaging in sexual activity, contrary to section 71 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The court heard police mounted the sting operation at the end of November and beginning of December last year after members of the public complained.

However, investigating officer Constable Paul Creith said he was not aware of any of the accused approaching anyone not involved in the cottaging ring.

Before passing sentence, Resident Magistrate Mr McNally said he had the power to imprison the men for six months and impose a fine up to £5,000, which he said demonstrated that "obviously Parliament has taken a serious view of this offence".

Ordering the men to pay various fines, he condemned attacks on a number of the defendants, some of whom were forced to flee their homes as a result.

He also said any attacks as a result of the hearing will be fully investigated by police and perpetrators brought before court where they "will be severely dealt with".

His comments came after defence solicitors detailed acts of violence against their clients, including a potentially fatal incident where the car of one of the defendants was pushed against his home and set alight.

One solicitor said his client had been "subjected to Ku Klux Klan mentality" after local newspaper reports on the crime.

Passing sentence, Mr McNally said: "All defendants are in their 40s, except one who is 29 years old. They are all decent people, all law abiding apart from these activities, which would not have been illegal had they occurred in private.

"However, people should be able to use public toilets without having to be confronted by such sexual activity.

"I could deal with these offences by way of a conditional discharge, but in view of the public aspect of the offences I don't feel that is appropriate. And there is no necessity for a community-type order, which leaves the court with the option of a fine."

Morrison Campbell McNeill (43) of Fairhill Street, Armoy and William Cyril Cummins (43) of Craigbeg Avenue in Londonderry were each fined £350, while Cahir Declan Mullan of Craigmore Terrace, also in Londonderry, was fined a total of £700.

William Brown (47) of Regent Crescent, Carrickfergus was fined £275. Jason James Weir (29) of Rosemary Place, Coleraine and Peter Samuel Parkhill (41) of Castlehill Place, Ballymoney, were both fined £300.

Daniel Melvyn Elliot (43), of Ballymaconnelly Road, Ballymoney; George Albert Millar (44), of Laburnum Place, Coleraine; John McMullan (46) of Hartford Park, Coleraine; and John Alexander Steele (47) of Whitepark Road in Antrim were each fined £250.

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