November 2016

Sex offender ‘broke ban by leaving cigarettes for girl’

A convicted sex offender allegedly tried to get cigarettes and a book to his teenage victim within weeks of being banned from any contact, the High Court has heard.

Nathan McFarlane took the package to a mental health unit where the girl was staying in Belfast after claiming to be her uncle, prosecutors said.

He also attempted to contact one of her relatives on Facebook in a bid to give her tickets for a music concert in the city, it was claimed.

McFarlane (24), of New Lodge Road in Belfast, faces two counts of breaching a sexual offences prevention order (SOPO).

The SOPO was imposed on McFarlane on September 30 after he was convicted of 16 counts of sexual offences against a child under 16.

It includes a prohibition on contacting the girl or her family until 2021.

But prosecution counsel alleged that McFarlane phoned the unit on October 24 to ask if he could bring her some tobacco and a book.

He claimed to be her uncle, using a false name related to the girl’s favourite song, the court heard.

Two days later, according to the prosecutor, McFarlane arrived and left the package containing cigarettes and a novel said to be her favourite book.

A social worker also told police the accused used social media to tell the girl’s relative that he wanted to give her tickets for a Bastille concert.

McFarlane’s phone has been seized, with PSNI officers also analysing the teenager’s phone for any communication.

Opposing bail, the prosecution lawyer described the girl as vulnerable and claimed she would be at risk if the defendant was released.

McFarlane’s barrister said he had arguably not breached the SOPO by phoning the unit and leaving the package.

“These goods were not accompanied by any note, there’s no transcription in the book,” he told the court.

It was also contended that the girl had made contact with the accused as part of an “engrained” relationship.

Denying bail, however, Mrs Justice Keegan said: “The imposition of a SOPO is obviously significant – it’s important that people are protected in the community.”