Northern Ireland

Belfast man David Osborne jailed for grooming girls

Belfast's Laganside Court
Image caption Osborne was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court

A 41-year-old Belfast man who admitted grooming three 13-year-old girls, and travelling to England to meet one of them, has been jailed for six years.

Belfast Crown Court heard that David Osborne, of Summer Street, sent them gifts, Valentine's cards and money.

He also sent lewd text messages and one of them an indecent image of himself. He was sent pictures of the girls.

Judge Corinne Philpott ordered that Osborne be placed on the sex offenders register for the rest of his life.

The offences came to light when the mother of one of the girls saw some of the text messages.

Osborne pleaded guilty to one count of meeting a child following sexual grooming, two of attempting to meet a child after grooming and three charges relating to indecent photographs of children, all committed on dates between 17 January 2008 and 4 February 2009.

Judge Corinne Philpott QC said if the teenager he met at a hotel in England had not walked out on seeing that he was not the young man of 19 or 20 that he claimed to be, "one doesn't actually know what precisely he would have done on the day in question".

She added however that given the circumstances "it is reasonable to conclude that significant, intimate sexual activity could have taken place".

The offences came to light when the mother of one of the girls became concerned about who she was contacting on her mobile phone and contacted police.

The police investigation revealed two other girls of the same age, with all three living in various parts of England, had also been contacted by Osborne who during online chats, text messages and phone calls claimed to be 20 years younger than he actually was.


Arrested and interviewed about the matters, Osborne denied doing anything wrong but further police enquiries revealed that despite knowing full well that he was under investigation, there was further contact with one of the teenagers.

Judge Philpott told the court that Osborne has been assessed as being a dangerous offender who posed a risk to children.

However, because the offences came under the old sentencing regime, she said her hands were tied and could not put an extended sentence in place in order to better protect the public.

In jailing Osborne, Judge Philpott said that was a "very worrying factor" in the case, as was evidence of his "manipulative behaviour" which he had tried to minimise.

As well as the jail term, the judge put a Sexual Offences Prevention Order in place for an indefinite period.

This bars Osborne from contacting his victims, having unsupervised contact with children, living anywhere, going on holiday or taking up a job without approval or having internet access without monitoring software being in place.