A Co Down man who admitted on video that he had drunken sex with a teenage girl was handed an 18-month sentence yesterday.
Ordering Robert Hindes to spend six months of the sentence in jail and the rest under supervised licence conditions, Downpatrick Crown Court Judge Geoffrey Miller QC also ordered the 21-year-old to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years.
Imposing a five-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order, the judge told Hindes he was imposing a longer licence period due to the contents of a probation report and "having regard to your own age and lack of maturity".
Hindes, from Regency Park in Newtownards, had originally been charged with raping the 14-year-old in March 2018, but that was left on the books after he pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual activity involving penetration with a child under 16.
Opening the facts of the case yesterday, prosecuting counsel Laura Ievers told the court how the defendant and his victim had been at a house party where both were "heavily intoxicated".
"At some point the complainant and the defendant went for a walk and ended up in an alleyway where he started kissing her," said the lawyer, adding that the girl's next memory was "him on top of her" having sex with her.
When they went back to the party, another reveller noticed "there was a love bite on her neck" and the girl became upset and crying when she was asked if anything had happened.
Hindes was recorded on a mobile phone confessing that "he was stupid and had 'rid her'," the court heard.
Investigating police spoke to the girl who was "visibly upset" and although initially reticent to be examined and give a video interview to police, she did in fact do so, telling police that she had consumed vodka, Buckfast and WKD that evening and that Hindes knew how old she was.
Arrested and interviewed, swabs were taken from Hindes and DNA profiling indicated there had been sexual contact.
His video confession was put to Hindes during police questioning but he refused to comment on it.
He claimed the 14-year-old, who he said he believed was actually 16, had "instigated the sexual activity" but that he told her "he couldn't go further because he had a girlfriend".
Ms Ievers told the court that given Hindes' guilty pleas "obviously he has moved from that position and now accepts that he instigated all of the sexual activity which includes full sexual intercourse".
"He accepts that she was 14 and could not have consented to sexual activity," said the lawyer adding that his guilty pleas "were very welcome".
Turning to aggravating features, she submitted the judge could "take the view there was deliberate isolation" in taking the girl to the alleyway and she would have been vulnerable "due to alcohol consumption".
In mitigation, however, Hindes has admitted his guilt, has a clear record and had shown "genuine remorse" for what happened.
Defence QC Gavan Duffy told the court Hindes had split from his long-standing partner on the day of the incident and witness statements evidenced that he was "really drunk - he was falling off the sofa" which would have impaired his decision making and judgment.
He stressed there was "no suggestion" that Hindes had supplied the girl with the alcohol she had consumed but he conceded that "of course he would've known that she was drinking".
"While he didn't know the exact age of the injured party, it is accepted he had no reasonable grounds for believing she was 16 or over," conceded the lawyer.
Mr Duffy submitted that while "there is an age disparity" between Hindes and his victim, "he doesn't appear to be a person of great maturity in terms of his personality or physically".
Jailing Hindes, Mr Miller said it was clear the incident "has had a traumatic and ongoing impact" on the teenage girl and that he now accepts "she did not consent to any sexual activity".
Outside the court there were differing opinions from the victim's family.
Her father said he was "just glad he has been incarcerated", but the girl's grandmother and brother lambasted the sentence as "an absolute disgrace".