Belfast Telegraph

Grooming accused to stand trial over child sex charges

By Nevin Farrell

A man facing eight charges including meeting a child following sexual grooming and sexual activity by an adult with a child has been sent for trial.

Jonathan McNeill (30), originally from Greenmount Crescent in Coleraine but with a different bail address, appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court yesterday for a preliminary hearing.

A court clerk said the charges alleged that on January 28 last year, being over the age of 18, the accused intentionally engaged in sexual touching of a girl under the age of 16 and that he did not reasonably believe her to be aged 16 or over.

The court heard there were four "similar" charges but the specifics were not given.

He also faces another charge that on the same date, being a person of 18 years or over, having previously communicated with on at least two occasions another person under 16, or who he did not believe to be over 16, met that person and at the time of doing so intended to do an act which would involve the commission of sexual offence. The clerk said there were two "similar" charges, but again no specifics of the charges were given to the court.

McNeill, who was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a hoodie in the dock, replied "no" when asked if he objected to the holding of a preliminary enquiry.

The defendant again replied "no" when asked if he wished to say anything in relation to the charges.

A prosecution lawyer said he believed there was a case to answer, and defence barrister Andrew Moriarty said there were no contrary submissions.

Mr Moriarty applied for two counsel in the case, telling the hearing that one of the counts - which had not been read out in court - was a "particularly serious charge".

District Judge Liam McNally said on the basis of the papers it "looks like a one-counsel case" and added the Crown Court could decide on the issue.

The judge held there was a case to answer and sent the accused for trial to Antrim Crown Court in May.

The court heard that the defendant had been on bail since last year, which had included two sureties.

Judge McNally said he was changing the bail conditions and added that a night time curfew was no longer needed.

Belfast Telegraph


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