Woman faces abuse trial

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A local woman was this week ordered to stand trial accused of sexually abusing two teenage boys.

Standing in the dock of Lisburn Magistrates’ Court in a black hoodie and blue jeans, 39-year-old Bernie McKibben was charged with five counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child aged between 13 and 16-years-old .

The defendant also faced two further counts of engaging in sexual touching involving penetration on dates between 30 September 2013 and 16 May 2014.

It’s alleged that McKibben, whose address is subject to a court-imposed reporting restriction, was “intentionally engaged in sexual touching of a person under 16 years” and “did not reasonably believe that he was 16 or over”.

McKibben confirmed she understood and was aware of the charges and although no facts surrounding the allegations were opened in court last Thursday, a prosecuting lawyer submitted there was a Prima Facie case for her to answer.

Defence solicitor Seamus Leonard said he had no contrary submissions and, that being the case, District Judge Rosie Watters said she was satisfied there was sufficient evidence to return the case to the Crown Court.

The court clerk told McKibben, who was brought into court through a side door before the families of her alleged victims were brought into the public gallery, that she had the right to comment on the charges, give evidence to the Preliminary Enquiry herself or call witnesses on her behalf but she said “no” she did not wish to say anything.

Returning the case to Craigavon Crown Court, Judge Watters ordered McKibben to appear before that court on February 23 for arraignment and released her on continuing bail in the meantime.

As part of the bail conditions McKibben is barred from a specific area and is prohibited from having unsupervised contact with children.

Following an application for senior counsel by Mr Leonard, Judge Watters extended legal aid to include the services of a senior QC, due to “substantial complex issues of fact.”