Man admits sexually abusing 13-year-old ggirl

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

A man who engaged in sexual activity with a ‘vulnerable’ 13-year-old girl was served a notice which banned him from associating with her.

Bernard Cooke, whose address was given as c/o Magilligan, pleaded guilty to sexual assault and sexual activity with a child.

The 23-year-old also admitted meeting a child following sexual grooming between September 26 and October 9, 2014.

Derry Crown Court heard the victim was a ‘vulnerable’ girl who is in a children’s home.

Staff had concerns about the teenager staying out late and breaching the home’s curfew.

On October 1, the teen stayed out overnight and was found in the area where the defendant lived.

Cooke was served with a harbourer’s notice two days later.

This notice was explained to him and he signed a copy of it.

The order banned him from associating with the girl or being in the same place as her.

Less than a week later, Cooke was found in the girl’s room at the children’s home.

He was arrested and told police he had nowhere else to go.

Other residents in the home reported that they had seen the defendant kissing the injured party. They also said the girl had told them she had sex with Cooke.

The court was told the girl was examined by a doctor and she admitted she had intercourse with the defendant the previous week.

Her mobile phone was seized and there were messages from Cooke, which were described by the prosecution as ‘sexual grooming’ messages.

It was revealed the girl did not co-operate any further with the case.

Defence counsel Sean Doherty said his client engaged in a ‘short lived, ill conceived relationship’ with the girl.

He told the court Cooke met the teen in the company of an older girl and was initially ‘unaware’ of her age.

However, the barrister accepted Cooke continued to see her once he was informed. Mr Doherty said there was no evidence of any sexual activity after the harbourer’s notice was served or that any lasting damage was caused to the girl.

He told the court Cooke has been subject to threats in custody and there was a ‘stigma attached to a conviction of this type which he will have to bear for the rest of his days’.

Judge Philip Babington adjourned sentencing until June 21.