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Loyalist sent sex texts to underage girl, court hears

By Emily Moulton

“Overtly sexual” text messages have been recovered from the mobile phone of a high-profile loyalist accused of raping a 13-year-old girl, a court was told yesterday.

Mark Harbinson (42), of Sheepwalk Road in Stoneyford, is also accused of possessing photos of a child and two further charges involving sexual activity between an adult and a child.

He has also been questioned by police in relation to the alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl, as well as a 12-year-old boy.

The former Stoneyford band master was arrested last October when police allegedly found indecent images of the 13-year-old girl on his mobile phone. He denies the charges.

Details regarding the text messages emerged during a bail hearing at Lisburn Magistrates Court sitting at Craigavon yesterday.

A detective constable told the court a thorough forensic examination of Harbinson’s phone had been conducted by the Metropolitan Police Telephone Unit.

He explained this revealed contact between the defendant and the alleged 13-year-old victim.

When asked by District Judge Watters what sort of contact it was, the police officer replied it was of a “sexual nature”.

“There were texts from the defendant’s phone to the young individual. They were overtly sexual content,” he said.

The officer also told the court the families of the three alleged young victims were terrified of the accused.

He said police had been in contact with them regarding the bail application.

“Each family is absolutely petrified of this individual,” he said.

“I spoke to each personally and I have reservations which are clearly evident to me should this man be released ahead of trial.”

A defence solicitor acting on behalf of the accused, who was not present in court, argued that his client should receive bail regardless of any new material or the concerns of the alleged victims’ families because the Public Prosecution Service had failed to produce papers on a specific date.

The PPS missed the June deadline.

Judge Watters acknowledged the prosecution had failed to serve papers on the set date but would not grant bail due to concerns of interfering with witnesses.

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