Man Sentenced To 16 Years For A Number Of Historical Sexual Abuse Offences

A 48-year-old has been sentenced to 16 years for a number of historical sexual abuse offences against a child, at Laganside Court.

Tommy Harris will serve eight years in jail and eight years on licence. He will also be place on the sex offenders register for life.

Harris's conviction comes after his victim waived her anonymity to speak out. Harris was Halleigh Lamont's stepfather when he began abusing her at aged 7.

Speaking following the conviction, Ms Lamont said: "Since July 2020 when I reported Tommy to the police this case has taken over my life. My relationships, my job, my home, my mental and physical health, my time and my privacy have all been sacrificed. I've had to articulate on abuse that I never wanted to share with anyone. To say this has been distressing is an understatement, it has been a war and today – I am victorious. Tommy initially denied that my report was true, he entered not guilty pleas and pushed back to have charges dropped but I fought to expose him and have him convicted of all the charges because they represented my suffering. Knowing what I know about the justice system and how agonising it has been at times, would I do it all again? Without a doubt. You can't do what he did to me and get away with it, there are consequences. I am ready to live my life free from this and am immensely proud of myself.”

The Police Service of Northern Ireland worked collaboratively with the Public Prosecution Service to build a robust prosecution case.

Detective Superintendent Gary Reid from Police Service of Northern Ireland's Public Protection Branch said: "Haileigh has showed immense fortitude and determination in bringing her abuser before the courts to answer for his crimes.

"The bravery she has shown, accompanied with today's sentencing, I hope will encourage others who have experienced any form of sexual abuse to come forward and contact the police. It is never too late to make a report.

"I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must be for someone to report historical sexual abuse, but we are here, whenever you are ready, to help and support you every step of the way.

"We have a team of dedicated detectives who will robustly investigate reports and who remain determined to bring anyone involved in any form of abuse before the courts to answer for their crimes, no matter when they occurred."

You can report to the police by calling 101 or reporting online. In an emergency always call 999. Once you've made a report, you don't have to come into a police station, detectives can arrange to meet you at a time and place that best suits you.

Victim Support NI has supported Haileigh throughout her journey through the criminal justice system. She was able to avail of specialist advocacy support from an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) and get specialist legal advice and support from a Sexual Offences Legal Advisers (SOLA) within the organisation. Victim Support NI can support child and adult victims of sexual violence and abuse, regardless of how long ago the crime took place and whether or not the crime was reported to police. If you, or someone you know would like to seek help, you can find out more at www.victimsupportni.com or contact info@victimsupportni.org.uk. You can also contact them at one of their two Hubs in Belfast 028 9024 3133, or Foyle 028 7137 0086.

The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline is free and confidential and operates 24/7 and can be contacted on 0808 802 1414.

The Assist NI service provides advocacy support to qualifying victims of sexual or domestic abuse engaging with the justice system and can be reached on info@assistni.org.uk.

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