Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Vulnerable teens in care may have been exploited for sex, court is told

Vulnerable girls allegedly abducted from a children's home may have been sexually exploited, the High Court heard.

A social worker also fears they were plied with drink or drugs after leaving care facilities in Co Down, prosecutors said.

Details emerged as bail was granted to a man accused of flouting a ban on having any contact with two girls aged 14 and 17.

Frederick Boyd (20), of Mark Street, Newtownards, faces five charges of child abduction on dates last month.

The court heard how he was issued with a harbourer’s warning notice which prohibited him from being with either girl.

But it was claimed that within days he was seen with them before they returned to their care home.

A judge was told of three further incidents involving the 17-year-old girl where she allegedly went missing with Boyd.

On two of those occasions staff from the home collected her outside shops on Belfast's Shankill Road, once after being out overnight.

Conor Maguire, prosecuting, said Boyd told police that he had been with the 17-year-old girl and he intended to continue seeing her regardless of the warning notice.

Opposing bail, the barrister added: “They are described, including the 17-year-old, as being vulnerable.

“There is a concern, and I can't put it higher than that, that these girls have been sexually exploited.”

Defence counsel Alan Blackburn stressed his client was not charged with any sexual offences. He told the court Boyd had associated with the older girl for a number of months, while the 14-year-old just “tagged along” on one occasion.

The accused's grandmother was called to give evidence in a bid to secure bail. “He didn't put a knife to her throat, a gun to her head or a ball and chain on her,” the pensioner told Mr Justice Weir.

The judge emphasised that children in care need at least as much protection as any others.

But he agreed to bail after being told the investigating detective was not opposed to Boyd staying outside Newtownards.

The accused, who appeared via video-link, is to be granted temporary release to sign for rented accommodation in Belfast. He was banned from having any contact with either girl or going within six miles of where they live.

Mr Justice Weir warned him: “If I hear you have broken your grandmother’s trust will be going straight back where you are.”

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