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Belfast former soldier gets ten years for sexual assault on vulnerable schoolgirl (12)

36-year-old will spend half the sentence in jail and half on supervised licence

The court heard how Butcher has 57 previous convictions

Paul Higgins

A former soldier who raped and sexually assaulted a vulnerable 12-year-old schoolgirl on New Years Eve after giving her alcohol was handed a ten year sentence on Wednesday.

Ordering 36-year-old Alan Bell McVeigh to spend half his sentence in jail and half on supervised licence conditions, Judge Neill Rafferty QC said that but for his guilty pleas, the sentence would have been 15 years.

At an earlier hearing McVeigh, from Forthriver Green in Belfast but who appeared at Antrim Crown Court by videolink from prison, had confessed his guilt to six sex offences including two counts of rape of a child under 13, two of sexual assault of the victim and one of sexual communication with a child on December 31 last year and January 1 this year.

Throughout the half hour hearing on Wednesday as the judge summed the case up and delivered the sentence, McVeigh sat in the videolink suite at Maghaberry with his head constantly bowed.

Judge Rafferty outlined how at about 10.30pm on NYE, McVeigh contacted the schoolgirl through social media, offered to get her alcohol and arranged for her to come to his house.

With McVeigh’s wife and children asleep upstairs, he gave her a vodka and coke and “began to engage in comments of a sexual nature,” telling the young girl that she “made him horny.”

He began to kiss her before laying her on the floor, removing the bottom half of her clothing and sexually assaulted her before making her perform a sex act and having full sex with her.

The judge told the court McVeigh’s actions were interrupted when the victims phone rang so when he went to the toilet, the girl left his home and went to a friends house.

It was there, said Judge Rafferty, that friends of the schoolgirl described her as “freaking out” and when she told her friend what had happened, the friend told her mum who in turn told the victim's mum and the authorities were alerted.

The victim's case began, the court heard, with her being medically examined at a rape crisis unit where the examinations and intimate samples established a DNA connection to McVeigh.

He was arrested and despite there being similar DNA findings on samples taken from the rapist, he denied the sexual offences.

McVeigh did however plead guilty at the first opportunity at arraignment and Judge Rafferty revealed the case had been fast tracked under the recent guidelines from Sir John Gillen’s review of sex cases, adding that the defendant would be getting full credit for his admissions.

Judge Rafferty told McVeigh that while he accepted he had a clear record and had shown remorse for his offences, they had had a significant impact on the mental health of his already vulnerable victim.

The judge revealed the child continues to suffer flashbacks and “frequent intrusive thoughts” about her rape ordeal and engages in “significant self harm and thoughts of life not worth living.”

While she was now diagnosed as suffering from PTSD, the court heard there had been a similar diagnosis on McVeigh himself as a result of his service with the armed forces.

He had been due to be sentenced earlier this year but the case was put back as the PPS sought to verify his claims with the MoD about what he witnessed in his tours.

Judge Rafferty said the rapist had claimed a child had died in his arms and that he had been ordered to shoot a child at a vehicle checkpoint but added that given the reports made clear his PTSD and depression were not contributing factors in the offences, he could only take account of them as personal mitigation.

Jailing McVeigh, the judge said given the gravity of the offences those factors “do not explain and certainly doesn’t in anyway excuse the offending.”

In addition to the jail sentence, McVeigh was ordered to sign the police sex offenders register for the rest of his life, barred from working with children and made the subject of a 20-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

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