Bid to quash underage sex conviction dismissed

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A Banbridge man jailed for having sex with a schoolgirl ten years his junior has failed in a bid to overturn his conviction.

Andrew Williamson’s lawyers claimed inconsistent verdicts were returned on charges over a relationship which allegedly started when he was 24 and the victim aged 14.

But after rejected all grounds of challenge, judges in the Court of Appeal declared: “The conviction is not unsafe.”

In April last year Williamson, now 29 and with a previous address at Ashgrove Avenue in Banbridge, was handed a three-year sentence - half in custody and half on licence.

He had faced trial at Belfast Crown Court on eight charges of sexual activity by an adult with a child over a period between 2011 and 2013.

Williamson always made the case that while he knew the teenage girl, he wasn’t involved sexually with her.

He also branded her claims that they were in a relationship as lies.

Jurors acquitted him on seven of the counts, but found him guilty of one charge of sexual activity involving penetration with a child between 13 and 16.

The conviction related to an incident when the girl was aged 15.

Mounting claims of inconsistent verdicts, defence lawyers argued that the jury’s reasoning on her complaints about the period of sexual relationship had no logical basis.

But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan pointed out that a decision had to be made on the complainant’s reliability on when the alleged activity commenced.

The only period in which the jury could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt was that covering the count for which Williamson was convicted, he said.

“We do not, therefore, consider that there is any issues as to inconsistency in the verdict,” Sir Declan added.

Rejecting further grounds claiming an abuse of process, Sir Declan confirmed: “For the reasons given, the appeal is dismissed.”