Ex SDLP councillor is convicted of sex crime

A former SDLP councillor has been convicted of sexually assaulting a teenager in her own home.

Brian Duffin

Antrim Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday that 73-year-old Brian Duffin “stuck his tongue” into a 17-year-old girl’s mouth, had one hand on her breast and the other on her inner thigh during the sexual assault on June 16, 2016.

Convicting Duffin, who sat as an SDLP councillor on Antrim and Newtownabbey Council until his resignation last February, District Judge Nigel Broderick said he had “given the matter careful consideration” but that the victim was a “very credible witness” whose account had been “straightforward and matter of fact.”

During the four hour hearing, an hour-long video interview the police held with the victim was played to the court.

The teenager told police Duffin had sat down right beside her on the sofa, even though there were other places to sit.

“I thought I could trust him and talk to him,” she told the interviewing detective.

But she then described how, when she became upset talking about her ill grandfather, Duffin put his arm around her and asked her for a kiss.

“He said ‘everything’s going to be ok’ and then he asked ‘give me a kiss’ so I went to give him a kiss on the cheek and he grabbed my head and put it towards his....he was coming forward and I couldn’t get my head back,” she told the detective.

“He kept coming at me and I couldn’t get back and then he stuck his tongue down my throat - I just froze, I panicked,” she continued, demonstrating how Duffin had one hand in her breast and the other in her upper, inner thigh.

Estimating the attack lasted about ten seconds, she said Duffin’s tongue was “all around my mouth” and when she managed to get up off the sofa, neither she nor Duffin said anything but he took his wallet out and took out £40 which he put on the table and walked out.

Under cross examination from defence counsel Chris Sherard, the teenager denied suggestions that she had “misinterpreted what happened.”

Giving evidence to the court on his own behalf Duffin, a father of 11 and grandfather to 19 kids, from the Cargin Road in Toomebridge, denied any wrong doing on his part.

He claimed he had gone to the house to see the girl’s mother but the teenager appeared “a bit mopey” so he put his arm around her to comfort her. Mr Sherard asked the former councillor: “Did you rub her, grab her breast, feel her leg, did you grope her?”

To each and every one, Duffin simply said “no.”

“Did you touch her breast,” Mr Sherard asked. “Absolutely not,” said Duffin.

Convicting Duffin, District Judge Nigel Broderick said allegations of sexual assault where it was one person word against another were the “most difficult cases to resolve.”

He told Duffin that he “may not agree with my decision but that’s for another day”.

Freeing Duffin on bail to August 7, Judge Broderick said he would pass sentence once a pre-sentence probation report was ready.