Northern Ireland

Newtownabbey pensioner is jailed for sex abuse

A Newtownabbey pensioner who sexually abused his five-year-old step-granddaughter has been jailed for four and a half years.

The 71-year-old man - who cannot be named to protect the girl's identity - was ordered to serve half his sentence in jail and half on licence.

He was also ordered to sign the police sex offenders register.

He had pleaded guilty to four charges of sexual activity with a child.

The Recorder of Belfast said that in his view, the age of the victim and the "serious breach of trust" the offending represented were significant aggravating factors in the case.

"It is essential that parents and carers of young children can have complete confidence in the people they are leaving their children with," he added.

Prosecuting lawyer Kate McKay said the offences came to light on 12 January last year.

The girl was so shy the lawyer told the court, that when police spoke to her, she would not tell them what had happened but instead pointed to where she had been touched.

The pensioner, who was in a long-term relationship with the child's grandmother, confessed to what he had done and later pleaded guilty to four charges of sexual activity with a child.

Defence QC Gavan Duffy said there was an unusual background to the "very unfortunate and very sad case".

He said the defendant suffered from a frontal lobe lesion and the onset of Alzheimers which he said may have contributed to the offences.

He said if the defendant "could turn back the clock and undo what he did, he would".

Judge David McFarland said the pensioner had caused psychological harm to his victim and that in turn, the offending had put pressure on her parents' relationship.

In addition to the jail term, the 71-year-old was handed a lifetime sexual offences prevention order barring him from contacting his victim or her family, having unsupervised contact with children or living anywhere without approval.