By Garrett Hargan

A 54-year-old man has been jailed for sexually assaulting a young girl, at Derry Magistrate’s Court.

Damien Martin Payne, was convicted by a majority verdict of one count of sexual assault of a child under 13 years of age between September 1, 2015 and December 26, 2015.

The young girl, referred to as ‘B’ throughout court proceedings pre-recorded her evidence on DVD.  ‘B’ explained that the offence took place in a house where the defendant was sitting at a kitchen table.

Passing sentence on Monday, May 21, Crown Court Judge Philip Babington told the court that while there, the defendant asked her to sit on his knee and when she said she didn’t want to Payne ‘took her by the arm’ and ‘put her on his knee’.  He then sexually assaulted the child for what the prosecution described as a ‘reasonably long’ period of time.

‘B’ said that what he was doing hurt her and at one stage she asked the 54-year-old to stop, but he didn’t.  It continued until she left the property and the defendant told her not to tell anyone.

A number of weeks later the child told two friends about what had happened and they ‘promptly told her mother’.  After speaking to her daughter, she confronted Payne at his front door where words were exchanged ‘but nothing further occurred’.

The matter was subsequently reported to police and the PSNI spoke to the victim, her mother and school friends.  Payne was arrested and interviewed, during which he described the allegations as a ‘pure disgusting lie’ and could not provide explanation as to why ‘B’ had said it, was not sure if she had sat on his knee and denied any touching.

At trial he gave evidence in his own defence and maintained that the allegations were a lie.

Judge Babington said it was clear from the child’s Victim Impact Statement, and that of her mother, that ‘this behaviour did have an adverse effect on ‘B’ which necessitated some professional assistance’.  He added that given the child’s age it was difficult to know ‘exactly how’ it had affected her but he placed ‘some reliance on her mother’s view’.

‘Heightened anxiety’

The court was satisfied that ‘B’ did experience ‘heightened anxiety’ as a result of this offending but was now ‘much more like her old self’.

Payne’s criminal record consists of 24 convictions, many relate to road traffic matters and five convictions were for offences of dishonesty.  He had no convictions for any sexual offences.

In the 54-year-old’s pre-sentence probation report he maintained he did not sexually assault ‘B’ and by way of explanation referred to a ‘fall-out between the families some time before’.  He was assessed at a medium likelihood of reoffending but was not assessed as posing a significant risk of serious harm.

No credit was given as Payne contested the matter and made a very young child give evidence which must have been ‘quite daunting for her’.

Aggravating factors were the disparity in ages, touching under clothing, telling her not to say anything and the adverse effects on her.

Judge Babington imposed a three years sentence, but departed from a 50/50 split as the author of the pre-sentence report suggested a period of two years was needed to for the defendant to engage in a treatment programme.  Therefore, one year will be spent in custody and two on licence in the community.

Conditions of that license will include participation in a sexual offending intervention and treatment programme.

He will be subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for an indefinite period, will be included on a barred list relating to vulnerable children and may be placed on a barred list for vulnerable adults.

Payne has also been disqualified from working with children and will be subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) for a period of five years.

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