Northern Ireland

'Serial sexual predator' jailed for Belfast assault

Belfast Crown Court
Image caption Belfast Crown Court heard the accused was arrested after a police CCTV operator saw him approaching the victim as she walked through the city centre

A County Antrim man described in court as a "serial sexual predator'' has been jailed for sexual assaulting a woman in Belfast city centre.

Samuel Shannon, 53, of Glenlough Road, Ballymoney, was filmed on CCTV approaching the victim as she walked home from a night out with friends.

Shannon, who has 19 previous convictions for indecent acts, admitted breaching a Sexual Offenders Prevention Order and a charge of sexual assault.

He was jailed for 16 months on Friday.

Belfast Crown Court heard that a police CCTV operator observed an "intoxicated" woman walking along Donegall Square South on 5 December 2015.

The court was told she had been at a 40th birthday and had consumed eight glasses of wine before becoming separated from friends and ending up on her own.

A prosecution lawyer said the PSNI operator at Musgrave Station was "obviously concerned for her'' because of her intoxication and decided to follow her on camera.

Registered sex offender

The court watched the CCTV footage, which showed Samuel Shannon walk past the woman before he turned around and followed her.

The short clip showed Shannon picking up her trailing scarf, putting his arm around her shoulder and walking off with her.

The footage showed Shannon "place his hand on her buttocks and touch her, moving his hand back and forth''.

The judge was told the CCTV operator alerted police, who immediately went to the scene. Shannon was identified as a registered sex offender.

The victim told police that Shannon made a lewd remark to her.

"It is clear that this was deeply embarrassing for the lady, particularly because of her intoxication, which left her vulnerable to this attack," he said.

'Quick police reaction'

Shannon has 77 previous convictions, of which 19 were for acts of indecency and the probation service assessed him as a "high likelihood of reoffending''.

A defence barrister told the court that Shannon now accepted his guilt, despite a contrary submission to a probation officer.

The judge said Shannon could have "caused more harm if he had not been stopped by the quick police reaction''.

He jailed Shannon for two years and eight months, with 16 months in custody and a further 16 months on supervised licence following his release.

He also extended a Sexual Offences Prevention Order on Shannon for a further five years.