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Co Tyrone man (60) 'held online discussions with girls as young as 10 about meeting up for sex', court hears

By Alan Erwin

Published 14/04/2016

A 60-year-old Co Tyrone man allegedly held online discussions with girls as young as 10 about meeting up for sex, the High Court heard today.

Cathal Francis Hughes' computer contained more than 15,000 Skype chat-logs in which he withheld his real age and location, prosecutors said.

A judge was told Hughes, who has a previous conviction for possessing indecent images of children, also travelled to Manchester without notifying his designated risk manager.

Details emerged as he was refused bail on a new charge of breaching a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) by contacting young girls over the internet.

Hughes, of Beechvalley in Dungannon, is alleged to have held sexual communication with girls under the age of 15 between September 1, 2015 and March 31 this year.

Prosecution counsel said police discovered the extent of online exchanges after examining a laptop seized from his home.

She told the court: "There's sexualised content in the chat-logs, including discussing meeting up for sex, asking a 10-year-old if she's sexually active and suggestions of being picked up after school."

Similar exchanges took place with another 12-year-old girl, it was claimed.

Disclosing details of Hughes' unauthorised trip to England, the barrister said he was arrested last month on suspicion of meeting a child following sexual grooming, engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, and incitement to sexual activity. No charges have been brought at this stage.

Hughes was said to have accepted the contact through Skype, stating that he didn't hide anything apart from his real age and location.

The court heard he variously claimed to live in Manchester, Liverpool and Derry so those he was chatting with would feel close to him.

At times he told his contacts he was aged 35 or 42.

"There are many other chat-logs yet to be examined," the prosecutor added.

A defence lawyer confirmed Hughes accepted breaching the terms of his SOPO, but claimed there was a different motivation behind the messaging.

But Mr Justice Horner insisted: "He knew absolutely clearly these conversations with young girls were out of bounds."

Denying bail, the judge continued: "I'm not satisfied I can manage the risk by imposing conditions that would be adhered to."

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