A Newtownabbey man was jailed for six months in Belfast Crown Court on Monday after being convicted of two sexual assaults against a nine year old when he was 20.

The 45-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty of one count of indecent assault on a female and a second of gross indecency with or towards a child.

The charges relate to one incident that took place over a 15-minute period between February 26 1987 and February 27 1990.

At trial in November he was found not guilty of a more serious charge of rape and of a further charge of indecent assault against another juvenile that was alleged to have taken place between November 1986 and November 1987.

The court heard that the crimes took place in a derelict house close to where the victim lived. On the day of the assault she had been passing the houses when she saw the man, who was known to her, in an upstairs room.

She went inside where she saw the defendant in a built in wardrobe with seating, and this is where two assaults took place.

Speaking on Monday (December 7) at his sentencing the defendant’s barrister drew attention to the pre sentence report that said his client “maintains his innocence” and “denies all accusations that were made against him.”

He said while that remains the case, he was “accepting of the conviction as he cannot change the process and will now just get on with it.”

His barrister said he would furnish the judge with three testimonials as to his character and that at no time before or after the offence had he ever broken the law.

Sentencing the man, Judge David McFarland said the aggravating factors in the case were the age of the victim and the 11 year age difference between her and the attacker.

He said he acknowledged the “exemplary” work record of the guilty party, and said he would take into account the fact he was in a stable marriage and that any conviction would have an impact on his family relationships.

“The appropriate sentence would be a concurrent sentence but I am obliged to consider custody probation order.”

The Judge continued, “I have looked at the probation report and it indicates your participation in the programme they have for sex offenders which would certainly assist you and be of benefit to the community and in all circumstances set out it is appropriate for me to make a custody probation order.”

As the crime was committed before increased sentence tariffs the accused was told he could only be sentenced to a maximum of two years in jail.

Judge McFarland handed down a custodial sentence of six months, to be followed by two years on probation for each offence. The sentences will be served concurrently.