First man convicted of offering cash for sex since change to NI law faces prison
An Armagh man has been found guilty of offering money for sexual services - the first conviction since the law here changed.
James Maloney (23), of Drumarg Villas, appeared before Dungannon Magistrates Court where he denied attempting to obtain the sexual services of a female in exchange for payment on August 28, 2016.
The case was opened before District Judge John Meehan where the victim, who is Lithuanian, gave her evidence via live-link.
She was granted special measures due to fear of Maloney, who ultimately declined to give evidence on his own behalf.
The victim explained she was working at a Dungannon petrol station at 6.20am on the day in question, carrying out duties on the forecourt before opening.
A black car approached and Maloney spoke out of the passenger window, the court heard.
He showed her a roll of money, and she said: "At first I thought he wanted something from the shop and I told him it would be open at 7am."
However, Maloney proceeded to make a sexual gesture and the victim said she understood she was being asked to perform oral sex. She told the court, "I said nothing. I was frightened.
"There was no one about at that time of the morning."
The car drove off but returned five minutes later and the driver repeated the gestures but did not show the money.
On this occasion the victim spotted a colleague and asked for help, after which Maloney again drove away.
The incident was reported to the victim's supervisor, and while she was being looked after, Maloney again returned to the general car park area.
Although he didn't approach, the victim recalled him looking at her.
She pointed him out to her supervisor and the police were called.
Under cross-examination, defence counsel asked the victim if at any time Maloney had exposed his genitals, which it was then accepted had never been alleged.
The defence asked the victim that given English was not her first language, could she have mistaken the gestures made by Maloney, but Judge Meehan remarked: "Difficulties in language do not affect a person's capacity to see."
The investigating police officer said she obtained CCTV footage of the incident, noting a black Audi A3. Using the registration plate, she traced the sole person to whom it was insured, Maloney.
Initially, when asked to speak to police, Maloney's solicitor contacted the officer advising his client would not be doing so as "he did not see the point".
When eventually interviewed, Maloney remained completely silent in response to all questions put to him.
His defence went on to advise the court she would not be calling him to give evidence.
Judge Meehan issued the standard warning that failure to do so could result in drawing inference as to guilt, but Maloney confirmed he would not be taking the stand.
Rubbishing the defence case and ordering a conviction, Judge Meehan remarked: "I have no lurking doubt whatsoever in a finding of guilt.
"He signalled money would be available should the victim accept and carry out sexual activity on him.
"He put the lady through a highly stressful process. He can expert a severe response by the court."
Warning he is considering immediate imprisonment, Judge Meehan adjourned sentencing until next month while reports are prepared.