Belfast Telegraph

Child rape accused groomed victim online, court hears

A Hampshire man allegedly raped a schoolgirl he met in Belfast after spending months grooming her online, a court has heard.

Philip Shorten is also accused of inciting the teenager to commit sexual acts using an internet webcam, and organising for others to view along with him.

He travelled to Northern Ireland four times to meet the girl in hotels when she was aged between 15 and 16, it was claimed.

Shorten (49, of Flagstaff Green in Gosport, faces a total of 11 counts of sexual offences against a child.

The charges, allegedly committed between July 2010 and February 2011, include rape, making and possessing an indecent photograph of a child, and arranging the involvement of a child in pornography.

He is further accused of setting up an online account to involve a child in sexual activity, intentional sexual touching of a girl aged under 16, and incitement to engage in sexual activity.

Other counts against him involve meeting a child after sexual grooming and intentionally causing her to look at a sexual image.

Belfast Magistrates Court heard Shorten met the girl last year on an online messaging service.

A detective constable said the pair at first engaged in normal online chats.

He claimed the accused then incited her to carry out sexual acts on herself and to strip in front of a webcam while he viewed. It was alleged that Shorten, calling himself Steve, further progressed to setting up an online account and providing details to the girl.

"He incited and arranged for the child to log on to that account using the password he gave," the officer said. "The defendant had added others into that so they could also view the activities by the child at his request."

As the alleged offences continued, Shorten travelled to Belfast four times to meet the girl in two different hotels, the court heard.

Police claimed he carried out sexual acts and took photographs, knowing she was aged 15 to 16.

Communication between the pair ended following the alleged rape of the girl in February, according to the officer.

A defence solicitor said the accused denied the offences and had told police he believed the girl was over 18.

Bail was refused and the accused remanded in custody to appear again by video-link next month.

Belfast Telegraph

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