Man molested schoolgirl

A 55-year-old Banbridge man who molested a teenage schoolgirl, has been placed on the Sex Offenders Register for seven years.

Sunday, 19th September 2010, 12:41 pm
Updated Monday, 20th September 2010, 12:31 pm

Alan Heslip, from Iveagh Drive, pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual assault when he appeared in the dock of the local Magistrates Court last Thursday.

The court heard how he confronted the 17-year-old, touched her bottom and tried to kiss her. The girl was still wearing her school uniform at the time.

The girl, who, according to a PPS prosecutor, feared a sexual assault, managed to get away from a drunken Heslip when a neighbour appeared.

District Judge Mr Paul Copeland considered a pre-sentence report and agreed that Heslip had shown extreme remorse, stating he thought there was little to be gained by sending him to prison.

Referring to the victim, Mr Copeland told Heslip he had, "accosted her in circumstances that caused considerable fright and alarm. You then proceeded to molest her in a way which was an affront to her dignity and person."

Outlining details of the case last Thursday, a prosecutor for the Public Prosecution Service said the incident occurred at 6.30pm on 21 April.

Police were called to Iveagh Drive, Banbridge and the injured party claimed she had been approached by Heslip who was known to her.

She said Heslip asked if he could walk her home. The girl kept on walking and as she entered an alleyway she stopped and spoke to Heslip who told her his wife was away.

Heslip then told the girl his arm was sore before stretching both his arms either side of her and pressing her against a fence.

The court heard that at this stage the girl felt nervous and feared a sexual assault was going to occur.

Heslip then took one of the girl's hands and rubbed it against his chest. He said he loved her and asked her to reciprocate this.

The girl said Heslip then touched her bottom, before putting both hands on her face in an attempt to kiss her.

She then managed to get away when Heslip approached from behind and again put his hand on her bottom.

It was only when a female resident appeared that Heslip walked away but he shook the injured party's hand before going into his home.

During police interview, Heslip admitted touching the girl and admitted his behaviour could be perceived as sexual assault.

He also admitted kissing her on both cheeks, and telling her he loved her. However, he denied saying she "looked well in her uniform."

Heslip's barrister, Mr Justin Byrne, said his client appeared before the court with an absolutely clear record. He said Heslip was married with three daughters. Mr Byrne stressed that Heslip was accompanied in court by his wife and daughters who were fully supportive of him.

Mr Byrne explained, "In terms of the offence I have spoken to him at length and one does not want to minimise the impact this had on the injured party. He recognises what he did had an impact on her.

"However, this is at the lower end of the scale in terms of sexual assault. He accepts it was wrong and he should not have done what he did.

"His good reputation has been destroyed. Banbridge is a small community area and people know him and what has happened. That will be left with him and his family for the rest of his life. He will be required to sign a register and wants to put this matter behind him. He admitted almost all the allegations and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and did not put this young person through a court ordeal."

Mr Byrne stressed his client had served four months on remand. He said the main reason for the offending was a combination of Heslip losing his job and drinking far too much.

District Judge Mr Paul Copeland said, "I am in no doubt this was a distressing and upsetting experience for this young woman who found herself the subject of your drunken predations.

"From what I read in the pre-sentence report I have to set aside the circumstances of this case within the context of things. It seems to me there is a clear theme of extreme remorse because you are penitent and deeply regretful of your conduct.

"All of that brought you to your senses and completes a circle of how and why you became involved. Your judgement was completely compromised and distorted by alcohol."

Heslip was given two years Probation - and as a condition he must engage in alcohol counselling and partake in programmes to address his offending behaviour. In addition he was ordered to pay his victim 1,000 compensation.