A WOMAN who was sexually abused by her stepfather as a child for over a decade has finally seen him jailed.
Haileigh Lamont, who lives in Belfast, was abused by her stepfather Tommy Harris, of Wynchurch Road, Belfast, from the age of seven up until she was 18.
Ms Lamont, 30, reported Harris to the police in July 2020.
The 48-year-old pleaded guilty to 42 charges of sexual assault against Ms Lamont – which included rape, attempted rape, indecent assault and gross indecency with a child – which took place over a decade, from 1999 to 2009.
On November 5 at Laganside Court, Belfast, Harris was sentenced to 16 years - eight years in prison and eight on licence - for his crimes.
He will also be placed on the sex offenders register for life.
Now brave Ms Lamont has chosen to waive her anonymity, to speak out about her experience, which began after her mother married Harris and he moved into their home.
“Since July 2020 when I reported Tommy to the police this case has taken over my life,” she said following his sentencing.
“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.”
She added: “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 (PSNI) worked collaboratively with the Public Prosecution Service to build a robust prosecution case.
Detective Superintendent Gary Reid from the PSNI’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.”
He added: “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."