Northern Ireland

David Tweed jailed for sexually abusing two girls

David Tweed is a former rugby international
Image caption David Tweed is a former rugby international

Former Ireland international rugby player David Tweed has been jailed for eight years for child sex abuse.

Tweed, an elected councillor in Ballymena, County Antrim, was convicted in November of sexually abusing two girls over an eight-year period.

The 53-year-old was cleared of one count of indecent assault.

When convicted, the judge described his crimes as "vile, wicked, dastardly and distasteful".

He paid tribute to Tweed's two victims and said his crimes had inevitably placed a "dark shadow" upon their lives.

Tweed, who played rugby for both Ireland and Ulster, is a former member of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV).

On Friday, a barrister representing the Crown said what had happened to Tweed's victims "marred their lives".

Tweed joined the TUV in November 2010 after defecting from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) but when charged with the offences, his membership was put on hold.

Tweed was also thrown out of the Orange Order after his conviction.

He remains a member of Ballymena Borough Council, to which he was first elected in 1997.

In December, the council said they would be considering what to do "in conjunction with the relevant electoral legislation" but that no decision could be made until the exact sentence was known.

Tweed, whose victims are now adults, was prominent in a series of sometimes violent loyalist protests outside a Catholic church in the Harryville area of Ballymena.

He was criticised by the Police Federation for Northern Ireland when shortly after his election he said it was not "astonishing at all" that police officers' homes were being attacked due to the way loyalist parades had been policed.

In 2009 he was cleared of sexually abusing two girls.

In 2008 he was convicted of drink-driving. In 1997 he was fined for assaulting a man in a Ballymoney pub.

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