PSNI welcomes sentencing of man for 'extremely harrowing' rape of girl (12)
Police have welcomed the sentencing of a man for the "extremely harrowing" rape of a 12-year-old girl in north Belfast.
However, the length of the term handed down has led to calls from politicians for a review into sentencing guidelines.
The 18-year-old man, who aged 16 at the time, raped the schoolgirl in the Waterworks park in 2017 after meeting her on social media.
At Belfast Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment - half of which will be spent on licence.
Detective Chief Inspector Claire McGuigan welcomed the sentencing.
“This was an extremely harrowing and harmful act on a young girl and public protection officers worked diligently to bring the offender before the courts," she said.
“I know it can be really difficult for someone to report a rape or any sexual assault, but the young victim in this case thankfully confided in a trusted family member and police were able to take action. The perpetrator is now in prison."
DCI McGuigan urged any victim to come forward and speak to police.
"We treat every allegation of sexual abuse seriously and whilst we know it may be very difficult to do, please be assured that we will make it as easy as possible for you," she said.
"You can report directly to the police via 101 and you do not have to come to a police station. Our detectives work in plain clothes and we can arrange to meet at a time and place that best suits you. I can assure you that you will be treated with the utmost sensitivity, care and respect."
There has been an outcry over the sentence handed down.
"I will be absolutely clear here. Our sentencing system here in Northern Ireland is absolutely farcical," Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson Doug Beattie said.
"It needs a complete overhaul and review. Until we start putting down sentences that act as a deterrent, we're going to go absolutely nowhere."
Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors, such as intent and excessive violence.
Belfast Telegraph Digital