Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man accused of child sex offences has identity protected

The man appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court
The man appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court

by Alan Erwin

A Belfast man is to stand trial accused of inciting a child in the United States to become involved in pornography, a judge ordered on Friday.

The 30-year-old faces further charges of sexual communication with the girl and causing her to engage in sexual activity.

Temporary reporting restrictions were imposed after defence lawyers claimed revealing his identity would increase the risk of committing suicide.

The man appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court accused of committing a total of 31 offences between February 2014 and June 2015.

The charges include communicating with a child under 16 for sexual purposes, and five counts each of inciting her to take part in sexual activity and pornography.

He is also accused of 15 counts of making indecent photographs of a child, and another five offences of possessing extreme pornographic images.

During preliminary enquiry proceedings the defendant declined to call witnesses or give evidence in response to the allegations against him.

His barrister, Sean Devine, disclosed that the alleged victim is based in the US.

Deciding that a prima facie case had been established against the accused, District Judge Fiona Bagnall returned him for trial at Belfast Crown Court.

He was released on continuing £500 bail until his arraignment on a date to be fixed.

Reporting restrictions were sought under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act which protects the right to life.

Mr Devine told the court he was only seeking a limited order until medical evidence can be produced.

Challenged by the press to further justify his application, counsel cited the legal test of a real and immediate threat to life.

He said: "There's a real danger that if there was publication of my client's details the risk of suicide would be exacerbated."

The accused suffers from clinical depression and anxiety disorder, the court was told.

Mr Devine added that the press will be given an opportunity to consider the medical evidence when it is obtained.

Granting anonymity at this stage, Mrs Bagnall held that it was the least intrusive step.

"There's a risk of suicide here - it may be everything or it may be nothing - but I have to protect everybody's rights," she said.

The judge stressed, however, that she was only prepared to make an interim, six-week order.

"It's for the defence to have (the case) listed before a Crown Court judge by April 27 if they want the order to be continued," she pointed out.

"The onus is also on the defence to notify the press of that date."

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