A man with an Armoy address has been placed on the sex offenders register for a total of 7-years after being found guilty of sexual assault of a young schoolgirl whilst travelling on a bus.
On Friday (September 3), sentencing took place at Coleraine Magistrates’ Court, sitting in Ballymena, following a pre-sentencing report.
The court heard that on March 4, 2020, the Defendant – Tom McNeill (72) of Raceview Park Armoy – was travelling on a school bus from Ballycastle to Coleraine when he touched a schoolgirl under the age of 13 several times.
The details of the charge before the court were that the defendant touched the school girl’s leg on two occasions – asking her where she lives – leaving her ‘extremely uncomfortable’ according to a victim impact statement before the court.
The court further heard that another school pupil reported the incident to the driver, who stopped the bus to speak to the schoolgirl, describing her as ‘visibly distressed and trembling’.
The driver told Police that he then asked the defendant to sit at the front of the bus, after which the schoolgirl got off at the next stop.
On arrival at Coleraine bus station, Police were already waiting following an emergency call from Translink and boarded the vehicle. Speaking first to the driver who informed them of the incidents details, Police officers arrest the defendant on a sexual assault charge, observing that the defendant was so heavily intoxicated that he had ‘wet himself’.
When interviewed the following day, the defendant told police he ‘couldn’t give a reason why the allegation was made against him and that he ‘only remembered getting on the bus’ putting his actions down to his ‘level of intoxication’.
Defence Barrister Francis Rafferty outlined to the court that his client had a previously clean record, that a pre-sentence report noted a ‘low likelihood’ of the defendant re-offending and that there was ‘no evidence to indicate concerns about previous or current sexual behaviour’.
District Judge Peter King told the defendant: “The only reason your standing here is because of your disastrous relationship with alcohol. This explains, but doesn’t excuse, what happened back in March 2020.
“I’ve absolutely no doubt that the young girl in question was terrified by these entirely unwelcomed and unwanted attentions.”
Judge King sentenced the defendant to four months imprisonment suspended for two years, as well as a 2-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order excluding him from travelling on buses during term time between the hours of -9 pm and 2:30-4 pm.
The defendant was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register for a total of 7 years.