Man accused of sexually assaulting baby to face trial
A 26-year-old man is to stand trial next year on a charge of sexually assaulting a two-week-old baby in Annalong.
The accused - who cannot be named due to a reporting restriction put in place to protect the identity of the child - appeared at Belfast Crown Court yesterday.
He spoke once to confirm his name, and again to enter a "not guilty" plea to the sexual assault of a child by penetration on a date between September 27 and 30 last year.
He was also charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent to the same child between the same dates, and of assaulting a woman between August 1 and September 2, 2018.
When these two charges were put to the accused, he replied "not guilty" to both. After his client had denied all three charges, defence barrister John Kearney QC revealed that he would be applying for the trial to be held outside the South Down area, and suggested Belfast as a possible venue.
This, he said, was due to "a considerable degree of reaction in the local area where the offences are alleged to have occurred". When Mr Justice Colton asked what the Crown's view of this application would be, prosecuting barrister Rosemary Walsh said: "It is accepted there has been a strong local reaction.
"However, once the application is lodged with the court, we will consider that.
"There are family members we need to take into consideration.
"It's something that we will consider very carefully."
Mr Kearney also revealed that the defence is in the process of instructing medical experts, who he said would "probably be English-based".
Mr Justice Colton was then told the trial is expected to last between two and three weeks, and a provisional date for the hearing was set as May 11, 2020.
After saying the case will be reviewed at the end of January, the judge said: "The defendant can be returned to custody."