Northern Ireland

Mark Harbinson jailed for sexually abusing school girl

Mark Harbinson
Image caption Mark Harbinson denied the sexual assault charges during his trial

Prominent loyalist Mark Harbinson has been jailed for three and a half years for sexually abusing a 13-year-old schoolgirl in his orange hall.

He was found guilty in February and also convicted of having topless pictures of the girl.

Because of time already spent in custody, Harbinson, from Sheepwalk Road in Stoneyford, will serve two years.

At his trial the jury failed to reach a verdict on five other charges, including indecent assault.

He was acquitted of indecently assaulting a 12-year-old schoolboy.

Harbinson was originally caught by police with the schoolgirl in his car on 26 October 2009, three days after topless photos of the girl were found on his mobile phone.

Text messages

The court had heard that during their affair, which began in March that year, Harbinson initially begged for kisses and even told her he "could not wait until she was 16".

It was revealed in court that Harbinson had three times more contact with the schoolgirl than his own wife, sharing over 1,750 text messages.

He also bombarded the school girl with texts during the weekend of the birth of his son.

The jury, by a majority of 10 to two accepted, that in August 2009, Harbinson, had taken the schoolgirl to his orange hall in Stoneyford where the sexual abuse took place.

During his five-week trial Harbinson's answer to all of the allegations was that he "didn't do any of this, not a word of it, not a word".

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