Belfast student accused of raping child to stand trial
A Belfast student with learning difficulties is to stand trial accused of raping a child, a judge has ordered.
James Thompson, 19, appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court for the first time to face a total of five charges on Thursday.
They include rape, three counts of sexual assault and inciting a child aged under 13 to engage in sexual activity.
The alleged offences were committed against a girl in 2014.
Thompson, of Beechmount Avenue in Belfast, spoke only to confirm he understood the charges.
During the preliminary enquiry hearing a defence lawyer did not contest prosecution submissions that he has a case to answer.
As Thompson's mother watched on from the public gallery, he declined to call witnesses or give evidence at this stage in proceedings.
District Judge Liam McNally ruled that the accused is to be returned for trial at Belfast Crown Court at a later date.
Thompson's solicitor applied to have two barristers represent him due to the seriousness and complexity of the case.
He said: "He's a young man with learning difficulties, we expect there will have to be a psychological report before the trial commences.
"This will be a difficult case with very serious charges."
After studying papers Judge McNally agreed to certify for two counsel, citing the mental health issues.
He told Thompson: "I'm releasing you on your own bail to appear at the Crown Court on a date to be fixed."
Belfast Telegraph Digital