Fighting in Belfast court as paedophile who abused cousin is led away
There were scenes of uproar in the public gallery of Belfast Crown Court when a fight broke out between two groups of people with connections to an accused and victim in a sex abuse case.
A 30-year old west Belfast man was remanded in custody after he admitted sexual offences against his 13-year-old second cousin.
As he was being led in handcuffs from the dock and into custody a verbal altercation broke out in the public gallery between a group of people who had come to court with the defendant, and those who had come to support the teenage victim.
Events quickly descended into physical violence, during which several punches were thrown.
The fight came after details emerged of how the accused had abused the teenage girl - who viewed him as her uncle - in the west Belfast home he shared with his fiancée. He admitted a total of nine offences including sexual activity with a child, causing a child to watch a sex act, and causing a child to engage in a sex act. The offences are said to have occurred over a two-year period from May 2012 to August 2014, and to have started when the girl was 13.
Crown prosecutor Rosemary Walsh told the court that over the course of the two years the defendant sexually abused the girl, showed her pornography on his phone and sent her an indecent picture on Facebook.
Ms Walsh said the abuse came to an end last summer - around the same time the girl told her boyfriend that "her uncle had been molesting her". Ms Walsh also revealed that the girl hadn't said anything before as she was "frightened of ruining the family".
The teenager told her mother, the defendant's first cousin, in October 2014, and when he was confronted about it the defendant apologised. The police became involved and, when the defendant went voluntarily to Grosvenor Road police station, he was arrested and made "no comment" responses throughout two interviews.
During the third interview a statement on his behalf was read out and, in this, he denied anything had happened with his young female relative, and that any contact between them had been "innocent and non-sexual".
However, the court heard that on the day his trial was due to start last month he pleaded guilty to a total of nine offences.
Ms Walsh told Judge Gordon Kerr QC that the girl had suffered "emotional turmoil" and has since been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
The prosecutor also revealed that the defendant viewed his behaviour as "two-timing his fiancée", but he also accepted he "breached the trust of a vulnerable family member".
Gavan Duffy QC, representing the defendant, said his client's guilty plea had spared the teenager from having to give evidence to the court.
Saying the defendant accepted his actions have had a "significant impact" on the girl, Mr Duffy said that at the time of the offending the defendant "sought to encourage and pursue a form of relationship" with her which was "wholly unacceptable".
The defence barrister said that prior to the offences coming to light his client "was held in some regard in the local community", was looking forward to getting married, had a "very close" relationship with his children and was in full-time employment.
Mr Duffy concluded: "As a consequence of his own actions ... he has lost all of these things."
Judge Kerr remanded the 30-year-old defendant into custody, to be sentenced next month.