Belfast Telegraph

Disgraced Antrim councillor Duffin avoids jail for sexually assaulting teen

Brian Duffin
Brian Duffin

By Paul Higgins

A disgraced councillor twice convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage girl has escaped going to jail after a judge suspended his prison sentence.

Imposing a four month jail sentence on 73-year-old Brian Duffin, but suspending it for three years, Judge Melody McReynolds told the pensioner his actions towards his teenage victim had been "reprehensible, belittling, humiliating and disrespectful".

Judge McReynolds praised the victim as a "very brave young woman who stood up to you practically and literally" during and after the incident on June 16, 2016.

Duffin, a father and grandfather from the Cargin Road in Toomebridge, was first convicted of sexual assault in June last year following a short contest at Antrim Magistrates Court and was handed a four month prison sentence.

He appealed that decision and sentence but at the end of another hearing last November, when the victim had to testify against him for the second time, Duffin was again convicted of sexual assault, this time by County Court Judge McReynolds.

The court heard that Duffin had "stuck his tongue" into the mouth of the 17-year-old girl, had one hand on her breast and the other on her inner thigh during the sexual assault on June 16, 2016.

The assault happened when she began to get upset talking about her ill grandfather, and Duffin put his arm around her and asked her for a kiss.

During her sentencing remarks yesterday, Judge McReynolds acknowledged that Duffin's conviction had caused "massive reputational damage" given his clear record and "many years of public service" as a councillor.

"Despite the widespread publicity in the case no one else has come forward to make any further allegations," said the judge.

She told Duffin, who sat in the dock with his head bowed throughout the 20 minute hearing, it was her view the circumstances of the case and his background were such to "justify suspension" of the prison sentence including his "maturity and unblemished character".

The former SDLP councillor, who became an independent representative on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council in February 2018, was ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for the next seven years.

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