Belfast Telegraph

Antrim man sexually assaulted 'Facebook pal’

A man has been convicted of sexually assaulting a student in his bedroom after they developed contact through Facebook.

Mark Balmer had denied touching and trying to kiss her before taking off his bottoms and boxer shorts when she visited his home during a lunch break.

But following a contested hearing a judge ruled that the 22-year-old, of Knockane Way, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, was guilty of the offence.

Belfast Magistrates Court heard he met the woman at a leisure centre on the outskirts of the city last November.

They had both been in the sauna and Jacuzzi area, and the next day she received a friend request from him on Facebook. In evidence given via video-link, the woman said they exchanged messages before she asked for his phone number to make communication easier.

She told the court she agreed to go to his house for lunch, thinking they could be just friends, as she was already in a steady relationship.

According to her account, she arrived and went up to his bedroom, where she said he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her onto the bed.

She stated: “He pulled my jacket off my shoulders and started kissing my neck.

“He was rubbing my thighs between my legs.” The woman said she ran down the stairs and left the house after Balmer began to undress.

She rejected defence claims that she was telling blatant lies, and accepted it was stupid to agree to be dropped off at his house by a girlfriend.

Balmer told the court the woman initiated conversation when they first met, and that she followed him from the sauna into the Jacuzzi area.

He insisted that he never touched or tried to kiss the woman, and had not removed his bottoms.

During his evidence he accepted lying to police, initially about the alleged victim having been in his bedroom, but claimed this was because he panicked.

Ruling on the case, District Judge Fiona Bagnall said: “I am satisfied that the defendant is guilty of the offence which is before the court, namely he intentionally touched the injured party in circumstances which fall within the legislation.”

Mrs Bagnall ordered reports be prepared before she passes sentence next month.

Balmer was released on continuing bail.

Belfast Telegraph

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