February 2009

Man convicted of sex with 14-year-old gets three years on probation

A BERWICK man convicted of having sex with an under-age girl has escaped prison after Sheriff Kevin Drummond decided a three year probation order would provide a “more effective level of protection” to the teenager involved.

Daniel Balfour, 23, of St Aidan’s Road, who was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for five years, previously pleaded guilty to the charge of unlawful intercourse with a minor after admitting a sexual relationship with a 14 year-old Berwickshire girl between April 1 to October 6 last year. On a previous occasion, the court heard how the girl’s mother was fully aware of the sexual element to the relationship and had allowed it to carry on under her roof.

The case attracted a lot of media interest both locally and nationally when the girl’s mother wrote to The Berwick Advertiser and The Berwickshire News explaining the actions of herself and her husband.

When he last appeared in court on January 7, Balfour was banned from having any contact with the girl, and his solicitor, Ross Dow, said that the following day his client ended the relationship.

Sentence was deferred last month to allow for the completion of a social enquiry report and risk assessment as well as a report from Northumbria Sex Offenders Group.

The social enquiry report produced to the court said that the endorsement of the relationship by the girl’s mother had given Balfour “a sense of entitlement” and persuaded him to continue. 

Sentence was deferred last month to allow for the completion of a social enquiry report and risk assessment as well as a report from Northumbria Sex Offenders Group.

The social enquiry report produced to the court said that the endorsement of the relationship by the girl’s mother had given Balfour “a sense of entitlement” and persuaded him to continue.

However, at the same time Mr Dow conceded that “the buck stopped” with Balfour and that he had belatedly appreciated the gravity of his actions.

Summarising the case, Sheriff Drummond said: “The range of disposals for this kind of offence is wide and I find it necessary to consider all the criteria relevant to making such a decision.

“The key considerations are the age difference between the two parties involved; the context in which the sexual act took place and if there was any disception or mistrust.

“It is important to note that the question of consent is not relevant because it is considered by law that a minor female is incapable of giving consent.

“This legislation is not designed to regulate people’s morality but to protect children. You were well aware of the girl’s age as a minor female but persisted in that knowledge.

“It is said that the relationship took place without the objection of the girl’s mother and in the family home. If that is the case then that is a serious dereliction of parental responsibility. The first place children should be entitled to protection is in their own home from their parents.”

Although he said he felt that the age gap between Balfour and the 14 year-old had “crossed the threshold of custody”, Sheriff Drummond decided that a maximum three month sentence wouldn’t offer sufficient protection to the minor.

Instead he decided on a combination of non-custodial punishments – 140 hours community service and a three-year probation order, with the added condition that Balfour is not alone in any enclosed places with his former girlfriend.

Balfour was also fined 135 and ordered to pay 103 compensation on a separate charge of stealing water tanks from a garden in Eyemouth last year.