Ex-Orangeman's teen abuse appeal fails
Former Orangeman Mark Harbinson has failed to overturn convictions for sexually abusing a schoolgirl - prompting an angry outburst which saw him led from the court.
Friday, 15 June 2012
The Court of Appeal ruled he was safely found guilty of molesting the 13-year-old in August 2009, provoking an angry outburst from the former Orangeman.
Reacting in court, he shouted out: "There's no justice in this court and there's no surrender."
The 45-year-old from Stoneyford, Co Antrim was jailed for three and half years in May 2011.
He was found guilty of sexual abuse and having pictures of an underage girl on his phone.
According to the prosecution more than 1,700 texts had been sent between Harbinson and the girl.
He was acquitted of separate indecent assault charges, while the jury at his trial failed to reach a verdict on further alleged offences.
Harbinson, who came to prominence during the Drumcree marching protest, protested his complete innocence.
His legal team appealed on the basis of the girl's allegedly unreliable evidence.
They introduced fresh evidence - claims she made in a victim impact assessment - in an attempt to undermine the victim's credibility and truthfulness.
His counsel argued that none of the alleged abuse had occurred.
But Lord Justice Girvan, sitting with Lord Justice Higgins and Mr Justice Gillen, held that the evidence against the high-profile loyalist was compelling.
He said: "While the complainant's evidence on some of the details surrounding the events of the night in question may have been unsatisfactory we are wholly unpersuaded that the jury reached an unsafe verdict on the core allegations."
Claims that inconsistent verdicts had been reached at trial were also rejected.
Another challenge centred on a claim of rape in a victim impact report which never featured at trial.
Counsel for Harbinson contended that this was fresh evidence which strengthened his claim that the girl exaggerated and lied about his conduct.
Judges were told it vitally affected her credibility but Lord Justice Girvan said: "This court has no difficulty in understanding why this child used the term rape in the context of her description of what she had suffered."
He added: "We do not consider that this fresh material causes us to doubt the safety of the verdicts of guilty on these counts."
Dressed in a dark suit and sitting in handcuffs alongside prison guards, Harbinson had sat emotionless throughout the judgment.
But on learning his appeal had failed he stood to his feet and vented his anger. He was ushered from the court shouting in protest.