Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Loyalist Mark Harbinson guilty of abusing girl of 13 in an Orange hall

Mark Harbinson

A leading loyalist and former Orangeman who had topless pics of a schoolgirl has been convicted of sexually abusing the 13-year-old in his Orange hall.

However, the Craigavon Crown Court jury that convicted 44-year-old Mark Harbinson of being a paedophile failed to reach verdicts in five other charges, |including indecently assaulting another girl of 14.

Harbinson, who came to prominence during the Drumcree standoff, will learn next month if he will face a retrial on those charges. He will be sentenced in April.

On Friday, Harbinson, from Sheepwalk Road, Stoneyford, Co Antrim, was also acquitted of indecently assaulting a 12-year-old schoolboy.

He was, however, unanimously convicted of having indecent images of the 13-year-old girl.

The jury branded Harbinson an “appalling” liar in claiming he had never touched the child, with whom the prosecution said he had an eight-month “intense and sexual affair”.

During this time it was said he had three times more contact with her than he had with his own wife, and they shared over 1,750 text messages.

Indeed Harbinson, who also got the 13-year-old girl to mail “sexy” topless pics to his mobile, even bombarded her with texts during the weekend of his son’s birth.

Harbinson was originally caught by police with the schoolgirl in his car on October 26, 2009, three days after topless photos of her were found on his mobile phone.

The court had heard that during their affair, which began in March that year, Harbinson initially begged for kisses and even told her he “could not wait until she was 16”.

Yesterday — by a majority of 10 to two — the jury accepted that in August 2009 leading loyalist bandsman Harbinson had taken the girl to his Orange hall in Stoneyford where he sexually touched her and encouraged her to engage in sexual activity.

During his five-week trial Harbinson's answer to all of the claims was that he “didn't do any of this, not a word of it, not a word”.

Concerning the “affair” with the schoolgirl, Harbinson maintained that “it never happened ... absolutely not... nothing happened between us”.

The Orangeman said of the crimes of which he was accused that he found them to be “terrible”, while he was “just utterly devastated” by others and “could not believe it”.

But the jury did believe some of the allegations and Harbinson, who looked shocked and angry as the verdicts were delivered, has now been returned to jail to await sentencing for his despicable crimes against the youngster.

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