Man found guilty of sex assault on girl (13)
A 26-year-old man has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in the grounds of a primary school.
Leo Forde (26), of Laghey, Co Donegal, had pleaded not guilty to three charges of sexually assaulting the 13-year-old girl on consecutive dates in September 2003.
It took a jury of 10 men and two women two hours and 35 minutes to return a majority guilty verdict of 11 to one at Donegal Circuit Court yesterday.
Two of the six men charged with sex offences against the victim when she was 12 and 13 years old have now been convicted. Three others have pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault and are due for sentencing in the coming weeks.
When the verdict was announced, the young victim, now aged 20, wept and smiled as she embraced an emotional social worker who had supported her throughout the three-day trial.
Forde, who had persistently denied claims by the victim that she had told him she was 13 years old shortly after they met, buried his head in his hands when the foreman of the jury delivered the verdict.
He told the court that the victim's mother was aware he was her boyfriend and had asked him his age and whether he had children.
He also said that, when he replied that he had a son, she said there was no chance of her daughter becoming pregnant because she had been given a contraceptive injection.
He also went drinking occasionally with the girl's stepfather and on one occasion spent the day in the pub with both parents while the 13-year-old went in and out but did not join them.
He claimed he was "broken" when the relationship ended because he had believed they were "going to make something of it".
When gardai later informed him of her age, he said he was "sickened".
The plaintiff, now aged 20, and in a stable relationship in another town, told the court that she was skipping school, drinking and having sex at the ages of 12 and 13.
In the course of the trial, evidence emerged of a diary she had kept containing the names of 22 men with whom she claimed to have had sex.
"I realised what had happened to me was wrong. I had been the victim of sexual abuse," she told the court.
Judge Gerard Griffin ordered that Forde be placed on the sex offenders' register and remanded him in custody until the July sitting of the court, when a date for sentencing will be fixed.