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Man who groomed girl (14) lucky not to be jailed, says judge

By Nevin Farrell

A judge has told a Belfast man that parents would be sickened by the way he groomed a 14-year-old girl.

District Judge Liam McNally was speaking at Coleraine Magistrates' Court, where 24-year-old Daniel McCormick of Glenrosa Link, Belfast, was put on probation for two years.

He was also placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for seven years and made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) for five years.

McCormick had previously been found guilty in his absence of two charges of meeting a child following "sexual grooming" and intentionally engaging in "sexual touching" in December 2015.

The specifics of the grooming charge are that he communicated with the child on one or more occasions and met her not reasonably believing her to be over 16. Prosecutor Breige Gilmore said that in December 2015 police received a report that a girl who was 14 at the time told her guardian that she was involved in a "sexual relationship".

The guardian told police she had been checking the girl's phone and noticed "inappropriate texts" and McCormick was on a contact list.

The teenager admitted "kissing on the train" with the defendant near Coleraine.

McCormick was arrested and phones and other items were seized. CCTV was also taken from a train platform and from the interior of a train which showed the defendant and the girl getting on the train and sitting together.

During a police interview, McCormick claimed he had gone to meet a friend and "by chance" met the girl and "gave her a hug" and he said he had "put his hand on her leg".

He also told officers that after getting off the train he "kissed her, on the platform, for about five minutes", claiming the kissing had been "consensual".

Defence barrister Eoghan Devlin said the defendant was "vulnerable" and since 2015 there had been no further offences, but McCormick was moved from his accommodation by police because of a threat to him.

The defence lawyer said although he was not trying to diminish the actions, in terms of the "actual assault", it was not near the top level of such offending.

Judge McNally said the "astute work" of the girl's guardian "may have prevented this matter becoming more serious".

He told McCormick: "I think anyone hearing the facts of this case and anyone who is a parent or a grandparent, the very idea of you being 24, on a train, kissing a young girl of 14, would immediately lend anyone to conclude that I should send you to prison."

The judge added that the defendant had accepted his guilt and he had to weigh up what was the best way to ensure he does not reoffend.

The judge did not believe a two or three month prison term would achieve that and instead placed him on probation for two years with conditions and put him on the Sex Offenders' Register.

Under the terms of the SOPO which was imposed on him, McCormick is banned from having any contact with children under the age of 16 unless with the approval of social services or his designated risk manager.

There were also conditions regarding having any internet-linked device and a ban on using the internet to attempt to contact children and safeguards regarding working with young people.

Judge McNally also told the defendant: "You are very fortunate I'm not sending you to prison.

"If you breach that probation order then I will send you to prison for four months."

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