May 2023

Horse breeder Michael Harold Beattie jailed for grooming and abusing girl

A pervert horse breeder has been handed a four-year sentence for grooming and abusing a teenage girl.

Michael Harold Beattie, who is 42, and from Bresagh Road in Lisburn, was found guilty of offences including initiating sexual activity.

The victim, who was 15 at the time, did chores at his stables. The abuse was discovered when a friend of the victim saw them kissing.

Jailing Beattie at Craigavon Crown Court on Friday, sitting in Coleraine, Judge Peter Irvine KC said given the nature if the offences, the breach of trust and the list of aggravating factors, “it is clear this case has crossed the custody threshold”.

He was ordered to serve half his sentence in jail and half under supervised licence conditions, and was told he will have to sign the police sex offenders register for the rest of his life.

A seven-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order was also put in place.

With a jury sworn in ready to hear the trial of Beattie last January, the 42-year-old was arraigned and made his 11th hour dock confession to each of the eight charges against him.

They included six counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child aged 13 to 16 and two of inciting the same child to engage in sexual activity over a time span between 21 December 2018 and 5 March 2019. 

Opening the facts of the case for the first time on Friday, prosecuting counsel Ian Tannahill told the court how the victim, who was 15 years old at the time, was going to Beattie’s livery stables on the Bresagh Road on an almost daily basis.

The offences came to light in March 2019 when a friend of the victim spotted the schoolgirl and Beattie kissing in the yard.

Beattie was interviewed by police on two occasions in March and August 2019 but on each occasion, even when text messages were out to him, he maintained the most sexual contact between them had been a “kiss on the cheek.”

“Asked if he was attracted to her, he said he was a married men and claimed that the girl had tried to kiss him the other day and he pushed her away saying he was married,” Mr Tannahill told the court. 

Turning to aggravating and mitigating factors to be taken into account, he conceded that Beattie has a clear record and had admitted his guilt but any credit must recognise that it was at the last minute, on the day the trial was due to start.

There was also multiple aggravating features including the breach of trust, the significant age gap, that he initiated the sexual activity and the harm caused to the victim.

Suggesting the relationship was akin to that “between a coach and an athlete,” Mr Tannahill explained that when assessing the level of the breach of trust, “the court may take the view that teenage girls who are interested in horses tend to be very interested in everything that goes with horses and in the yard and so on.”

He revealed that in her victim impact statement, she now realises that Beattie “used and abused her and believes that she was groomed.”

Describing the case as representing a “spectacular fall from grace,” defence counsel Rosemary Walsh told the court that Beattie is remorseful, “acknowledges the harm that has been caused to this injured party” and submitted that in addition to any prison sentence, there will be an impact on the defendant for years to come.

“This is a small jurisdiction and the particular line of work that he was involved in is one where people talk so his offending and the publicity surrounding it will he a significant impact on his reputation,” she told the court.

Jailing Beattie, Judge Irvine said he was satisfied Beattie had “engaged in a course of grooming” his victim and that he had made “a number of remarks which were clearly designed to appeal to the injured party and in effect, designed to encourage her to take part in this activity.”

“It is absolutely clear that this activity has had a detrimental effect on not only her mental health but also on her general well being,” the judge told Beattie, telling him that given the number of aggravating features he had assessed the defendant’s culpability as high.

Judge Irvine told Beattie if he had not admitted his guilt, thereby saving the victim the “undoubted ordeal” of having to give evidence, he would have received a five year sentence instead.

April 2023

Horse breeder pervert was ‘going to leave wife for his teenage victim’

A sex offender told his young victim he was “prepared to leave his wife”, a court has been told.

Champion horse breeder Michael Harold Beatti is also said to have told the schoolgirl he was ready to tell people about her, even though she was under the age of consent.

Judge Peter Irvine KC was due to sentence the 42-year-old on Friday, but he highlighted that Beattie disputed aspects of the prosecution case.

He told Craigavon Crown Court, sitting in Coleraine, “It’s fairly evident that the factual matrix is not entirely in agreement between the parties,” including what he described as a “litany of communications” sent by Beattie to his victim.

The judge said it was clear that Beattie disputed the Crown contention he told the girl “that he was prepared to leave his wife and to inform other persons about this particular relationship”.

With a jury sworn in and ready to hear the trial, and with the victim on standby to give evidence, Beattie’s defence counsel asked for the charges to be put to him again.

The defendant, from Bresagh Road in Lisburn, then confessed to each of the eight charges against him.

These were six counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child aged 13 to 16 and two of inciting the same child to engage in sexual activity.

The crimes were committed on dates between December 21, 2018, and March 5, 2019, and carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Defence counsel Rosemary Walsh said she understood the issues raised by the judge and agreed the court needed to have clarity before the matter could proceed any further.

Freeing Beattie on bail, Judge Irvine said he would review the case and fix a date for sentencing this Friday.