Man (63) sexually assaulted teenage girl

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A 63-year-old man who sexually assaulted a teenage girl is to be sentenced later this week.

James Gallagher, whose address was given on court papers as St Columb’s Wells in Derry, pleaded guilty to one charge of sexually assaulting the 15-year-old girl on July 24 last year.

Derry Crown Court heard the girl, who was “very drunk” and had been separated from her friends, met Gallagher on the Bay Road.

She was looking for her phone and was “visibly upset and crying” when the 63-year-old introduced himself to her.

The court heard he offered to look for the girl’s phone and after a short time began kissing her.

Despite the girl telling him “no,” Gallagher pulled down her trousers and sexually assaulted her. He also opened his belt, forced her hand down into his trousers and made her touch him.

The teen later told police she was “scared and wasn’t strong enough to push him off her”. She also claimed that she kept saying no, asked him to let her go and said she wanted her mother.

It was revealed the girl eventually got away from him when she agreed to meet him the next day at 2pm. The teen went to the roadside and flagged down a passing car.

A prosecution barrister said the people inside the car “became her refuge” and phoned the police. She added they described the girl as being “distressed” and saying “that man was after her”.

The court heard police arrested 63-year-old Gallagher at the scene. During police interview he told officers he believed the girl was between 17 and 20-years-old and that any sexual activity was “consensual”.

Prosecuting counsel told the court that a victim impact report said the girl has been “significantly affected” by the incident.

Her schoolwork deteriorated, she suffered sleeping problems and required “therapeutic intervention”.

Defence counsel Des Fahy said Gallagher had been in custody since July last year and had served the equivalent of a two and a half year sentence.

He added the 63-year-old has shown remorse for the offence through his guilty plea and now has a “social stigma which he will have to carry for the rest of his life”.

Mr Fahy said the incident was “genuinely and wholly out of character in terms of how he lived his life up until July 2011”.

Derry Crown Court Judge Piers Grant adjourned sentencing until later this week. Gallagher was remanded in custody and will appear in court again on Friday.