Belfast Telegraph

Man accused of raping schoolgirl with learning difficulties claims sexual activity 'consensual,' court told

Belfast High Court.
Belfast High Court.

By Alan Erwin

A 37-year-old man accused of raping a schoolgirl with learning difficulties claims any sexual activity was consensual, the High Court has heard.

Romanian national Stefan Bighiu also faces allegations of imprisoning the 15-year-old at a location in Armagh.

He was granted bail on condition that he must immediately leave approved accommodation any time children are present.

Bighiu, of Lisanally Lane in Armagh, is charged with four counts of rape and false imprisonment.

A second Romanian man is accused of similar offences in connection with an incident on March 7 this year.

Prosecution counsel Iryna Kennedy confirmed the case relates to alleged sexual assaults on a teenage girl.

"She has the physical age of 15, but has learning difficulties," the barrister said.

"She is vulnerable and would have a younger mind than a normal 15-year-old."

His Honour Judge David McFarland was told both accused deny committing any rape.

"This applicant said she didn't come (to the location) by force," Mrs Kennedy added.

"He made full admissions to having sex, but claimed it was consensual."

Concerns were raised over an address in Belfast where Bighiu wanted to be bailed to.

Although the occupant claimed to live there alone, the court heard police checks found a Disney Princess girl's bag at the property.

Photographs of children were also discovered in an upstairs room, according to the prosecution.

However, it was accepted that it could take up to a year before any trial gets underway.

Based on the delay and Bighui's co-accused  being already on bail, Mr McFarland ruled that Bighiu can also be released from custody.

He imposed a number of conditions, stressing that police must approve the proposed address.

The judge stressed: "Should a person under the age of 16 enter such premises when he is present he is to immediately vacate and remain outside the premises until such times as the child leaves."

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