Belfast Telegraph

Sex offender who breached child contact ban by giving girl ice-cream receives conditional discharge

By Alan Erwin

A category-one sex offender who breached a ban on contact with children by giving a little girl an ice-cream has received a conditional discharge.

Thomas William McConnell was told today that the terms will remain in place for 12 months.

After being sentenced at Belfast Magistrates' Court the 77-year-old pledged there would be no repeat.

"I shouldn't have done it," said McConnell outside the courthouse.

The pensioner, of Cliftonville Avenue in the city, pleaded guilty to breaching a sexual offences prevention order by associating with the child aged as young as five.

He told police she had followed him part-way into his flat to get the treat.

No details of the original offences which led to the order being imposed on him were disclosed.

But under its terms he is prohibited associating with anyone under 18 unless approved by social services.

The court previously heard McConnell informed police about the incident during during a routine, unannounced visit to his home last October.

He had been carrying ice creams for other residents of the fold where he lives when the child spotted him.

She was said to have followed him part-way into his flat when he went in to get her one.

McConnell, who uses a walking stick to aid his mobility, then attended for questioning by police.

Deemed vulnerable due to his age, an appropriate adult accompanied him.
During interview he admitted being aware of the sexual offences prevention order requirements and to giving the girl an ice cream.

The pensioner stressed it had only happened once.

He also told police that he would shout out at the child when he saw her about the fold, adding that her mother was with her at all times.

A prosecution lawyer added: "He was not able to say how old she was, but believed her to be approximately five."

McConnell admitted the offence before a contested hearing of the case was due to get underway.

After studying pre-sentence reports, District Judge Ken Nixon decided to impose a 12-month conditional discharge.

Asked outside the court if there was any chance of him acting in the same way again, McConnell replied: "No way."

He declined to make any further comment on the case.

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