Pensioner appears in court charged with sexually assaulting child

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copy by Alan Erwin

A 78-year-old Belfast man charged with raping a girl aged 11 has blamed her, a court heard today.

Police claimed the accused showed no remorse for alleged sex offences against a child who lives in the same neighbourhood.

The pensioner cannot be named due to reporting restrictions imposed amid concerns for his safety.

A judge was told death threats posted on an online news site referred to shooting or hanging him if his identity is discovered.

The man appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court charged with rape and sexual activity with a child under 13.

He also faces a further count of sexual communication with a child.

The alleged offences were committed between May 1, 2019 and February 7, 2020.

Entering the dock in handcuffs and wearing a black bomber jacket, the defendant confirmed he understood the charges against him.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall was told he has made admissions in connection with the case.

But an investigating detective claimed: "He doesn't appear to comprehend the (seriousness) of the acts.

"He has not expressed remorse; he has blamed the injured party. She is an 11-year-old child."

Disputing the police assessment, a defence lawyer insisted his client was aware of the gravity of the allegations.

It was argued that the pensioner could be released on bail because there was no suggestion of targeting random children.

"The police case is this conduct had been cultivated at family events over many years," the lawyer added.

Granting bail to an address approved by the PSNI, Mrs Bagnall banned the accused from contacting anyone under 18.

She also ordered: "He is not to be within 500 metres of any school, playground, leisure centre or facilities visited by children."

A prohibition on identifying the man was imposed after reference was made to the online comments about the case.

The court heard postings had urged people to attend the hearing so that his name could be obtained and shared.

His lawyer contended: "Some of them mentioned hanging and shooting."

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