Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Man admits to sex acts with drunk teenager in Derry nature park

A 62-year-old man has admitted carrying out a number of sex acts on a drunken teenage girl he met in a Londonderry nature reserve on Sunday night.

James Gallagher from St Columb's Wells on the cityside, appeared in court yesterday on three charges of sexually assaulting the 15-year-old in Bay Road Park.

Defence solicitor John Fahy told District Judge Barney McElholm that during two interviews after his arrest, his client admitted sexual activity with the girl.

"This is not a man who denies what happened.

"While the age difference between the defendant and the girl is abhorrent, my client says she consented to what took place," he said.

Opposing bail, a detective constable said the defendant was alleged to have pushed the drunken teenage girl to the ground after she'd asked him to look for her mobile phone.

During his interviews the defendant said he thought the girl was aged between 17 and 20 and that she consented to the sex acts.

"He said the girl had been drinking with friends in the park and was then afraid to go home because her parents would have been angry with her," the police officer said.

The Bay Road Park, a scenic wildlife refuge which was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2009, runs along the shore of Lough Foyle almost under the Foyle Bridge and is a favoured place for young people to gather.

The detective told the court he was afraid of public order offences being committed against the defendant if he was released on bail.

He said the defendant also had a conviction for indecent assault in 1982.

The officer added: "He says he takes a five-mile walk three days a week from his home to the Bay Road Park where young people congregate and drink.

"I would be afraid that he would go back there to identify vulnerable victims," he said.

Describing the case as highly emotive, District Judge McElholm refused bail and remanded the defendant in custody for three weeks.

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