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Loyalist Mark Harbinson jailed over sex abuse of schoolgirl in Orange hall

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Mark Harbinson

Mark Harbinson

Mark Harbinson

Loyalist Mark Harbinson has been jailed for three-and-a-half years for sexually abusing a 13-year-old schoolgirl in an Orange hall.

He was found guilty in February, and was also convicted of having topless pictures of the girl.

Harbinson, from Sheepwalk Road, Stoneyford, in Co Antrim, who came to prominence during the Drumcree stand-off, will only spend two years in jail because of time already served.

The prominent Orangeman has also been expelled from the Orange Order in the wake of the sentencing.

Harbinson was originally caught by police with the schoolgirl in his car on October 26, 2009, three days after topless photos of her were found on his mobile phone.

The court had heard that during their affair, which began in March that year, Harbinson begged for kisses and told her he “could not wait until she was 16”.

The court heard that Harbinson had three times more contact with the schoolgirl than his own wife, sharing over 1,750 text messages.

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Craigavon Crown Court Judge Desmond Marrinan told the 44-year-old that while he still denied being a sexual predator, he must accept the jury's guilty verdicts.

Judge Marrinan added that “anyone like the defendant who robs any child of their innocence must expect severe punishment”.

Harbinson, who has already been placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for life, has also been banned from working with children or from keeping or using any electronic devices, such as mobile phones or computers, capable of storing any images.

The jury convicted Harbinson of the three sex abuse charges and two of having indecent pictures of a child on his phone.

However, the jury acquitted him of indecently assaulting a 12-year-old schoolboy, and failed to reach verdicts in five other charges, including indecently assaulting another girl of 14.

An Orange Order spokesman said: “Following the court sentencing, Mark Harbinson has been expelled from the Orange Order as per rules of the order.”

Background

Harbinson was a prominent Orangeman at the Drumcree stand-off in 2000, calling it “Ulster's Alamo”. He said: “Let's bring our numbers back to the hill. We hope to achieve our aims and objectives but we must do it from a position of strength. Today is a rallying call. This is no longer a Portadown District problem. This is Ulster's Alamo. Go home from here today and bring your friends. This is where the battle begins. The war begins today.”


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