A pervert newsagent who sexually abused a nine-year-old girl and tried to buy her silence with sweets has been jailed for three and a half years.
Jailing 68-year-old Thomas Ronald Smyth and ordering him to sign the sex offenders register for life, Belfast Crown Court Judge Philip Babington said he had “manipulated the victim by use of threats” and had shown “little victim insight” regarding the trauma he put the girl through.
Smyth, whose Clare Heights home in Ballyclare was the subject of a petrol and paint bomb attack earlier this month, pleaded guilty to a total of seven charges of indecent assault and one of committing an act of gross indecency with a child on dates between October 1997 and October 1999.
Earlier, the judge had heard that the then aged nine-year-old girl had started working in the pervert’s newsagents in Ballyclare, making up 10p mix bags and doing a paper round for him.
Prosecuting lawyer Andrew Crawford told the court the abuse began one day when the girl was sitting behind the counter in the shop and Smyth bent down to get something off the bottom shelf but while kneeling down, put his hand up her skirt and touched her inappropriately.
He said the pervert “kept staring at her... it frightened her and she did not know what to do” and added that afterwards, “he gave her sweets and told her not to tell anyone” or they would both get into trouble, before the girl ran home crying. The court heard the girl was not going to go back to the shop, known as ‘Ronnie’s’, but he threatened if she didn’t “he would tell her mother”.
However, when she did return, the lawyer said Smyth took her to the back storeroom, rubbed himself against her and touched her again, while the girl stood “crying, saying no”.
He said that afterwards Smyth told the girl to pick a bar of chocolate, “gave her a pound or two out of the till” and told her not to tell.
Mr Crawford said the girl could remember there was CCTV covering the shop but that when her boss would take her to the storeroom to abuse her, he would use the monitor in there to keep an eye out for customers coming in.
The lawyer said the abuse was “repeated on a large number of occasions, approximately 100 times” over the two years or so it lasted and that on five or six occasions, she was forced to touch him.
He said the girl was also abused once in Smyth’s house, which was close to his shop, where he took her to a bedroom and abused her.
Arrested and interviewed in July 2007, Smyth admitted the girl had helped in the shop, but that he told her not to come back because she was stealing cigarettes and she played an adult porn video in the storeroom.
Smyth claimed the girl had only been at his house once to get headache tablets when she ran into a bedroom and jumped on the bed, telling cops he believed the nine or ten-year-old girl was “trying to lead him on”.
Mr Crawford said that in the Crown view, the offences were aggravated because of the age and vulnerability of Smyth’s victim, the “substantial age” difference, the prolonged period of abuse and the “breach of trust”
Defence QC Ken McMahon said it was significant that Smyth had reached 68 years of age with no other offences on his record.