A court has heard how a man from Coleraine paid a 14-year-old girl to kiss and have sex with him at his Coleraine home.
Jonathan McNeill (28) of Greenmount Crescent, was refused bail when he appeared at North Antrim Magistrates’ Court on Friday, because of the ‘grooming and trafficking nature’ of the case.
The defendant faces 12 charges: two charges of engaging in sexual activity with a child, two charges of meeting a child following sexual grooming, two charges of trafficking for sexual exploitation, rape, sexual assault, sexual assault with penetration, causing or enciting a child (13-16) in sexual activity and two charges of child abduction.
Court heard that on January 28, the injured party, who cannot be named because of her age, made an allegation that the defendant had paid her £40 for having sex with her.
A few days earlier, on January 23, the teenager, who lives in a residential care home, alleged that McNeill had paid her £30 for kissing him. On this occasion it is claimed that the pair had sexual contact, in that McNeill touched her breasts, but they did not have full intercourse.
This contact is alleged to have taken place in McNeill’s car after he pulled over in a lay-by.
Detective Constable Fleck told the court that McNeill was aware of the girl’s age, as the victim had told him during a conversation.
The officer said that McNeill had been told by the girl’s sister that she was 16.
Court heard that during interview, the girl had told police that she had felt ‘nervous and scared’ when McNeill took her to his home in Coleraine for sex on January 28.
She told police that she had said ‘no’ to sex several times, but that when he was on top of her she couldn’t get him off.
McNeill is alleged to have asked the girl for oral sex at his home. He is also alleged to have given her £40, telling her ‘that was for having sex with me’.
The defendant was arrested on January 28, and made no reply during questioning.
On January 29, after the injured party had been interviewed, McNeill was re-arrested. He made no reply to all of the charges, but when the charge of rape was put to him he replied ‘definitely not guilty’.
Court heard that CCTV footage shows the pair together at McNeill’s home.
Opposing bail, Detective Constable Fleck told the court that she believed McNeill had an ‘interest in vulnerable children’.
She said that police had fears that the defendant would contact the victim. She added that officers were aware that the defendant had been contacting another female at her residential premises.
Defence solicitor for McNeill, Mr Sheils pointed out that his client had no criminal record and that the allegations were denied.
He said that the defendant had signed a document confirming that if the girl made contact with him, he would contact police immediately.
Mr Sheils added that McNeill’s mother, who has been assisting police with enquiries, would act as a surety for her son and allow him to live with her, a ‘substantial distance’ from the girl’s address.
Judge Peter King refused bail, saying that the defendant was ‘aware of the age’ of the alleged victim, and that bail conditions were not sufficient in the case.
He said he was denying bail due to the ‘age and the vulnerability’ of the injured party and the nature of the charges. “There is a grooming and trafficking nature of this case,” he remarked.
McNeill, who waved to his mother in the gallery as he was taken down, was remanded in custody. He will re-appear again via video link on February 23.