A paedophile who groomed a schoolgirl and wrote about their activities in his diary has been jailed.
Andrew McRoberts, from Ballinderry, Co Antrim, was handed a three-year sentence, half of which will be spent in jail and half on licence.
The 32-year-old pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual activity with a child, sexual communication with a child and possessing an indecent image of a child, all committed on dates between April 2018 and July 2019.
The farmer groomed and abused the 14-year-old girl, after he met her at a tractor rally. He then kept diaries of the sexual abuse which police found during a raid of his home.
Craigavon Crown Court was told police seized sex toys, restraints, explicit images of the victim and three used condoms with the girl’s DNA on them when they searched Andrew McRoberts’ home.
The court was told offences came to light in August 2019 when the victim’s parents were told by family friends of their suspicions regarding McRoberts and their daughter.
While the schoolgirl slept, her mum and dad examined her phone and uncovered “extremely sexual” messages on it from someone called Andrew, who it transpired was the defendant.
When his home was searched a “large number of items were seized”, including his diaries, sex toys and used contraceptives and officers also found evidence “there had been explicit photos shared between them”.
McRoberts was arrested and taken into police custody for questioning while his teenage victim underwent an ‘Achieving Best Evidence’ video interview with strained child-abuse detectives.
She outlined how she met McRoberts at a vintage tractor rally and after a week of exchanging messages, “he had said that he liked her,” even though she was only 14 at the time.
That was the start of the grooming and the abuse is said to have continued for about 16 months during which time, according to the teenage victim, they had sex “on 20-30 occasions”.
“She spoke throughout [the interview] as being in a relationship, a boyfriend and girlfriend relationship,” said the lawyer, who added that in reality “we know of course that it was a series of criminal acts by this”.
The schoolgirl told police “she sent pictures of her private parts to him… of her own freewill” and that he would send her sexually explicit images of himself as well.
McRoberts says he’s concerned he could lose his business if he’s sent to prison for a long time
“I f***ed up and I’m rightfully going to be punished,” he said.
“I’m going to jail, I’m prepared for that. I’m worried about being labelled as a paedo, I’m no paedo, I don’t see myself as a risk to others.
“I don’t have any previous convictions and I’m more than happy to work with probation and will do any therapy required.
“I’m worried if I go to prison for a very long time I’ll lose my business. I have staff members and customers relying on me.
“I’ve rang round my customers and explained the case and most have agreed to continue to give me business.
“If I go to jail I’d like to do therapy work and other courses. I have two degrees in mechanical engineering and a masters.”
As well as the prison sentence, McRoberts was also told to register as a sex offender