Northern Ireland

Former soldier jailed for five years for underage sex

A former soldier has been jailed for five years after he admitted having sex with a 15-year-old girl.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Nigel Hall, 40, from Bendigo Street, Belfast began the "relationship of sorts" with the girl in the summer of 2008.

When arrested Hall initially denied any wrongdoing, but later pleaded guilty to four charges of indecent assault and one of gross indecency.

He was placed on the sex offenders register for 15 years.

Hall was originally charged with raping the teenager, but prosecution QC Jackie Orr said the facts and circumstances surrounding the case made it more akin to unlawful carnal knowledge rather than rape so two of the indecent assault charges represented unlawful sex.

Defence QC Paul Ramsey said that despite earlier protestations, Hall now accepted "full responsibility for his actions which he totally regrets and is sorry for".

Handing down the jail term and ordering Hall to sign the police sex offenders register for the next 15 years, Judge Philip Babington said there were a number of aggravating features to the case, including the age difference, the repeated offending and "there may have been some degree of grooming because he did purchase her gifts and gave her alcohol".

Hall was also barred from ever working with children and as part of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, from having contact with anyone under 18 or with his victim, from using internet chat rooms or from "residing in premises, even for a single night" where there was a child.