A Belfast man who had sex with his intoxicated niece was on Thursday handed an 18-month sentence suspended for three years.
Judge Neil Rafferty QC told the 44-year-old that he had carried out a "reprehensible'' act on his "vulnerable'' niece which has had a lasting impact on her life.
The defendant, who can't be named to protect the identity of his niece, had pleaded guilty to a single count of having sex with an adult relative.
Belfast Crown Court heard that the pair met up in July 2020 and had consumed a large quantity of alcohol.
The following morning, she was suspicious that he may have had sex with her while she was drunk and challenged him. He sent a text message back saying he didn't know anything.
Following an examination, it was confirmed that sexual activity had taken place.
In a victim impact statement, the woman said that since the incident, she was suffering from depression, anxiety, had gained weight gain and had lost hair.
She told the judge that she "cries about this at night, I feel a sense of panic and shake at times. I am a shell and I am a very broken woman. I don't feel I will be the same person I once was. I have truly lost myself”.
Prosecution counsel David McDowell QC said there were a number of aggravating factors in the case, including that the victim at the time was vulnerable and that she was under the influence of alcohol.
Defence counsel Gavan Duffy QC said his client had no previous convictions for sexual offences and was "remorseful'' about the incident.
Judge Rafferty told the defendant: "There is damage to this lady by what you have done to her. Your actions on the night in question were reprehensible and it has had an impact on this lady that I only hope she will recover from at the conclusion of this case.''
He added: "There is no doubt in my mind that you took advantage of a drunken situation.''
Passing sentence, Judge Rafferty warned the defendant if he committed any further offences in the next three years, particularly a sexual offence, the 18-month sentence would be put into operation consecutively to any other custodial sentence he received.
The defendant was placed on the sex offenders register for ten years and was made the subject of a five-year restraining order which banned him from having direct or indirect contact with his niece.