Man faces litany of sex charges

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A Craigavon man has appeared in court charged with a catalogue of serious sexual offences against two women, one of whom suffers serious learning difficulties.

Appearing at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court wearing a leather jacket, the accused leaned on his walking stick, staring at the floor throughout the half-hour hearing.

The 57-year-old, who cannot be identified to protect the two alleged victims, faces a total of 15 charges including five of rape, aiding and abetting gang rape, three of sexual assault, two of voyeurism, two of false imprisonment, one indecent assault and a count of human trafficking within the UK.

All the offences are alleged to have occurred on dates between January 1999 and January of this year.

A detective constable told the court she believed she could connect the man to the charges, adding that police were strenuously opposed to his release on bail. The officer outlined how in the police view, the 57-year-old had exerted “manipulation and control” over the two victims who had suffered years of “domestic and sexual abuse” at his hands.

She said that if released, police feared he would use his influence over them to interfere with the witnesses, one of whom she said was “particularly vulnerable” to intimidation as she suffered from severe learning difficulties.

The charges of sexual assault allege that the victim could not have objected to being touched due to a mental health disorder.

The officer said police had fears over the defendant’s own health and that he had “refused to eat in police custody” and that if released, such would be the “shock and outrage in the community” that he would be in danger.

Under cross-examination from the man’s solicitor, the officer agreed that he had been on bail since January when first charged with false imprisonment and that both women were now “in houses of safety.” She added, however, that it was only last Thursday that the more serious accusations of sex abuse came to light.

The solicitor said his client had been on bail with no breaches, suffered serious health problems as regards arthritis and asthma and had claimed during 20 police interviews that anything sexual which occurred had been consensual. Refusing the bail application, District Judge Alan White said he shared police concerns.

The man was remanded in custody to appear again via video link next month.