Belfast Telegraph

Former SDLP councillor Brian Duffin guilty of sexually assaulting teenager

By Paul Higgins

A former SDLP councillor has been convicted of sexually assaulting a teenager in her own home.

Antrim Magistrates Court heard that 73-year-old Brian Duffin “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 16 June 2016.

During the judge’s summing up, Duffin sat to the side of the dock, staring at the floor, hands clasped as if in prayer.

Convicting a shocked-looking Duffin, who sat as an SDLP councillor on Antrim and Newtownabbey Council until his resignation last February, District Judge Nigel Broderick said he had “given the matter careful consideration” but that his victim was a “very credible witness” whose account had been “straightforward and matter of fact.”

“I could not find any evidence of exaggeration....she is a credible witness and I believe her account,” said the judge.

Freeing Duffin on bail until 7 August, Judge Broderick said he would pass sentence once a pre-sentence probation report was ready, commenting that it would be “inappropriate to sentence ad hoc” in the absence of such a report.

During the four hour hearing, an hour long Achieving Best Evidence video interview the police held with the victim was played to the court where the teenager recounted how Duffin sat down right beside her on the sofa, even though there were other places to sit.

“I thought I could trust him and talk to him,” she told the interviewing Detective but then described how, when she began to get upset talking about her ill grandfather, Duffin put his arm around her and asked her for a kiss.

“He said ‘everything’s going to be ok’ and then he asked ‘give me a kiss’ so I went to give him a kiss on the cheek and he grabbed my head and put it towards his....he was coming forward and I couldn’t get my head back,” she told the detective.

“He kept coming at me and I couldn’t get back and then he stuck his tongue down my throat - I just froze, I panicked,” she continued, demonstrating how Duffin had one hand in her breast and the other in her upper, inner thigh.

Estimating the attack last about ten seconds, she said Duffin’s tongue was “all around my mouth” and when she managed to get up off the sofa, neither she nor Duffin said anything but he took his wallet out and took out £40 which he put on the table and walked out.

Calling a friend and two relatives while she was “in hysterics,” she told the court when she told her mum what happened, “she just kept repeating ‘dirty dirty b******’.”

Under cross examination from defence counsel Chris Sherard, the teenager denied suggestions that she had “misinterpreted what happened.”

The lawyer put to her that what had actually taken place was a bear hug and that she was “over reacting.”

She denied that however, telling the lawyer that the way Duffin kissed her “was like a snog - I’m not over reacting.”

Giving evidence to the court on his own behalf Duffin, a father of 11 and grandfather to 19 kids, from the Cargin Road in Toomebridge, denied any wrong doing on his part, claiming he doesn’t “have the foggiest idea” when the victim had made allegations against him.

He claimed he had gone to the house to see the girl’s mother but the teenager appeared “a bit mopey” so he put his arm around her to comfort her.

Mr Sherard asked the now disgraced former councillor a series of questions : “did you rub her, grab her breast, feel her leg, did you grope her?”

To each and every one, Duffin simply said “no.”

“Did you touch her breast,” Mr Sherard asked and was told emphatically: “absolutely not. As a councillor I have a code of conduct that I have to operate under.”

During cross examination from prosecution Briege Gilmore, she put to Duffin if his councillor’s code of conduct would “not preclude you from going to the house of a 17-year-old girl in her night dress and sitting beside her on the sofa.”

Convicting Duffin, Judge Broderick said allegations of sexual assault where it was one person word against another were the “most difficult cases to resolve,” telling him that he “may not agree with my decision but that’s for another day.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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