Belfast Telegraph

Internet ban for Northern Ireland teen rape suspect

The accused must abide by a curfew and electronic monitoring at the undisclosed address (stock photo)
The accused must abide by a curfew and electronic monitoring at the undisclosed address (stock photo)

By Alan Erwin

A 17-year-old Northern Ireland boy who allegedly raped one girl and shared sexual photos he incited others to take after befriending them through social media is to be banned from any online activity, a High Court judge has ordered.

Mr Justice Colton imposed the prohibition as he granted bail to the Co Antrim teenager said to be skilled in computer technology.

The defendant, who cannot be identified, is also accused of blackmail and harassment in a case involving five suspected victims - including a 13-year-old girl with learning difficulties.

Prosecutors claimed he poses a danger to vulnerable members of the public.

He allegedly boasted to police about his computer abilities, saying that he deliberately sought out and crashed strangers' internet games.

During interviews he was also said to have stated: "All girls these days are sluts."

The teenager is charged with 21 offences, including rape, causing a child to engage in sexual activity, trying to blackmail one alleged victim into paying £500, and multiple counts of possessing, distributing and inciting girls to take indecent photographs.

He faces further counts of unauthorised access to computer material by performing a function with intent to secure access to a programme or data.

The alleged offences were committed against teenage girls on dates between August and November 2018.

The defendant denied raping one of the complainants, claiming they had previously had "an affair", the court heard.

According to the prosecution he confirmed having sex with the girl in a bathroom, but insisted it had been consensual.

It was contended that the accused's behaviour has escalated, with the alleged victims described as vulnerable due to their age or home circumstances.

At an earlier hearing the court was told one of the injured parties is a 13-year-old with learning difficulties.

Amid opposition to bail, it was claimed that the defendant's mother threw his phone into a river, resulting in the loss of critical evidence.

Another mobile seized as part of the investigation was said to contain non-sexual images of unknown babies.

A Crown lawyer argued that the accused could use his skills in computer technology to evade police digitally and engage inappropriately with young females.

He also alleged the defendant had difficulty managing his anger and self-control, expressing hostility to females manipulated in both direct contact and online relationships.

However, defence counsel his client has spent almost a year in custody.

The teenager's mother was said to be shocked at the charges against him and pledged to do everything necessary to ensure safeguards are put in place.

A proposed address up to 30 miles away from where complainants live was available, the court heard.

Bail was granted after the judge requested a report and more information on supervision arrangements.

The accused must abide by a curfew and electronic monitoring at the undisclosed address.

Banning him from contacting any complainants, Mr Justice Colton also directed: "He must not be in possession of any device capable of accessing the internet, nor have any access to the internet whatsoever."

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