A 76-year-old Coleraine man was sentenced to jail today (Friday, June 30) after being found guilty of sexual assault on a nurse in December last year.
The defendant appeared from the dock of Coleraine Magistrates Court – sitting in Ballymena today- to be sentenced following a previous contest hearing where he was found guilty of touching a nurse’s right buttock whilst an inpatient at Causeway Hospital on December 4 2022.
Victor Hepburn of Cloyfin Road Coleraine had previously received an 11-year sentence for sexual offences, including rape, at Enniskillen Crown Court in 2014 but was released on licence in November 2019 after serving six years.
Previously the defendant’s two-hour contest in May started off with a surprising turn of events. Hepburn’s defence Barrister, Stephen Law, had to step down from the case just moments before the trial began. He explained that he had lost trust in Hepburn after discovering that she had secretly recorded their consultation.
Now being represented by new counsel, defence Barrister Mr Alan Stewart, a pre-sentence report was prepared prior to sentencing, which the court was told suggested the defendant would ‘struggle’ in a prison environment.
Addressing the defendant, District Judge Peter King said: “The conviction is an aggravating factor, the setting is an aggravating factor, the attack on NHS staff is an aggravating factor, and your record is an aggravating factor,“
Judge King when on to say: “Your assault on the victim, in this case, has caused her to leave Northern Ireland with a degree of significant and financial impact.”
Referring to the pre-sentence report Judge King told the court that the defendant “didn’t possess a significant risk of harm; however, in terms of risk of reoffending, I have to conclude that there is a significant and serious risk of reoffending”.
Before passing the sentence, the Judge concluded by telling the defendant that “the court will do its utmost to protect both health service staff and victims of sexual offensives.
“In this case, sir, you have ticked almost every single aggravating factor this level of offence could possibly present before this court”.
Granting a sexual offence prevention order (SOPO) for five years, an Article 7 protection from harassment order for five years, Judge King also imposed a four-month jail sentence which triggered placing the defendant on the sex register for seven years. Hepburn was also ordered to pay an offender levy of £25.
However, following sentencing, defence Barrister Mr Stewart put forward an application on behalf of his client for release pending an appeal -which Judge King granted – releasing Hepburn on his own bail of £750.