A Bulgarian circus worker who had sex with a drunken underage girl in Cork has received a prison sentence of two years with six months suspended.
Tsvetomir Velikov (42) later told gardaí that the then 16-year-old girl and her friend claimed they were overage, but they did appear younger. He admitted during interview that he had been reckless about their ages.
Velikov, a Bulgarian national with an address at Coolfore Road, Ardbraccan, Navan, Co Meath, pleaded guilty on his trial date at the Central Criminal Court to defiling a female under the age of 17 at a Cork town on February 28th, 2015. He has no previous convictions in Ireland or Bulgaria.
The court heard that the girl, who was a week off her 17th birthday, and her 15-year-old friend had arrived at the circus after consuming “a considerable amount” of vodka. Sgt Mary Skehan told Alice Fawsitt SC, prosecuting, that the girls were whistled at and then invited into a caravan with about six circus workers.
The girls were given more alcohol here, before the 16-year-old went to a different caravan with Velikov and her friend left with another circus worker, Ivan Peev (34).
Peev, a Bulgarian national, also of Coolfore Road, previously received a two and a half year prison sentence for defiling the then 15-year-old in a circus caravan on the same date.
On Monday, Justice Aileen Donnelly suspended the last six months of a two year prison term, backdated to June 26th last when Velikov pleaded guilty.
She said while there was no physical violence, the law existed to protect young people no matter how much alcohol they had consumed. She said Velikov had doubts about the child’s age but decided to continue.
She noted that he was now ashamed and embarrassed by his actions though the court heard he had not informed his wife and children.
Sgt Skehan said that while there was no evidence of undue pressure or violence there was evidence that Velikov kept filling up the victim’s glass with alcohol. CCTV footage of the girls leaving the circus afterwards showed them appearing very drunk and holding each other up.
A mother and daughter met the girls and took them to a Garda station because they appeared so intoxicated. Sgt Skehan said these witnesses and gardaí at the station gave differing accounts of how drunk the girls were, but there was evidence that the 16-year-old had been vomiting on the night.
Sgt Skehan told Ms Fawsitt that neither girl made a complaint, but that one of their care workers found out what happened the following day.
In her victim impact statement read out in court, the then 16-year-old said that Velikov used her for her body and left her feeling very unhappy in herself.
She said she felt ashamed and didn’t like her body for a long time afterwards. She described how she had built herself up for the court case but was glad Velikov was “taken into custody and off the streets”.
Sgt Skehan agreed with Blaise O’Carroll SC, defending, that his client gave gardaí a “clear and concise description of what had happened”. She agreed that Velikov had questioned the girls’ ages. “There was a question mark in his mind, but he continued on,” counsel said.
Velikov’s employer told the court that the defendant was a valuable staff member and a good friend. Christopher Lester outlined Velikov’s hardworking background since joining the company in 2013.
Mr O’Carroll submitted to Ms Justice Donnelly that his client was at low risk of re-offending.
He said Velikov had been a “model prisoner” while awaiting sentence and had completed various courses. He said his client was “deeply embarrassed and extremely remorseful” for his actions.