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Jail for man who had sex with girl (14) he groomed

By Staff Reporter

A man was starting a three-and-a-half year prison sentence yesterday after he was found guilty by a jury of having sex with a 14-year-old girl he met at an Eleventh Night bonfire party.

Stephen Meneice, from Thompson House on Belfast's Antrim Road, was last month convicted of nine sexual offences committed over a four-week period in the summer of 2012.

The 40-year-old - who appeared in court with a "formidable" criminal record of 181 previous convictions - will spend an additional period of three-and-a-half years on licence when he is released from prison.

Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told Meneice, in his view, he groomed the teenager with cigarettes, alcohol and other gifts, as well as giving her lifts and "lavishing attention" on her.

Branding the month-long sexual relationship between the then 14-year-old and then 38-year-old Meneice as "entirely inappropriate", the judge said that while she agreed to it, in the eyes of the law a 14-year-old child cannot consent to sexual activity.

During yesterday's sentencing it emerged that the offending occurred while the father-of-one was under both licence and a suspended sentence for previous offending.

It also emerged there were no previous sexual offences on his extensive record.

After a two-week trial held at Belfast Crown Court, the jury of nine women and three men found him guilty of seven counts of sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 16 and two counts of sexual activity with a child.

However, the jury acquitted him of one charge of making threats to kill the girl.

During the trial, the jury was told the offences were committed on dates between July 11, 2012 and September 15, 2012.

Prosecution lawyer Kate McKay said the crimes came to light when the victim told her father about the relationship and he alerted police.

Jailing Meneice, Judge McFarland told him he will also be the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for 15 years.

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