A CLONAKILTY man was this week jailed for seven months after admitting he sexually exploited a 14-year-old girl with special needs by persuading her to send him an intimate photo of herself.
Michael O’Regan (42) of Assumption Place, Clonakilty, pleaded guilty at Clonmel Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday to the exploitation of the child between December 25th 2016 and April 25th 2017, contrary to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act.
Det Garda Michael Cussen had previously told the court that a man called to a garda station in Co Tipperary on April 25th 2017 and reported his 14-year-old daughter, who has Down Syndrome, had been in contact with a number of men through an online site and had received and sent photos, Judge Eoin Garavan was told.
The girl’s father handed over her mobile phone and laptop to gardaí and they found that the mobile phone number used by the man most regularly in contact belonged to O’Regan.
The victim was then interviewed by a child specialist interviewer and she admitted sending a topless photo of herself to O’Regan after he had asked for it.
Gardaí searched O’Regan’s home in Clonakity and he handed over his phone and laptop. He later admitted asking for the topless photo.
In court this week O’Regan’s barrister, Suzanne Gorey BL, pleaded for leniency, saying O’Regan had co-operated fully with gardaí, sparing his victim what might have been a challenging trial.
She said O’Regan and his mother had sought to access psychological services but since he had gone into custody on similar charges in 2019, he had been seeing a psychologist and was due to see a psychotherapist in a bid to address his issues.
She said he had gone on line initially in the hope of meeting someone his own age, but instead found himself developing a sexual interest in girls of a younger age. He didn’t want to have such feelings and desires.
She said he had twice attempted suicide. As a result of one attempt he had suffered back injuries and now suffers from arthritis of the spine and hands, has high blood pressure and diabetes.
In a letter read in court, O’Regan said he wasn’t seeking to make excuses but he was genuinely remorseful.
He had had a ‘lonely upbringing’ and was subjected to bullying and assaults in school. He later suffered from depression and a lack of self-worth.
Ms Gorey said O’Regan had obtained just the one image from the girl, had no physical contact and he had never shared the photo with anyone. In fact, he had deleted it from his laptop when he realised the girl might have special needs.
The barrister said that she wasn’t seeking to minimise the injury to the girl who was clearly the victim, but she believed O’Regan was a victim ‘of his own demons’. He didn’t believe he was a bad person, but he accepted he had exploited a child and should be punished.
Judge Eoin Garavan said he accepted what Ms Gorey had said but he noted that a probation report on O’Regan found that, while he expressed remorse for his action, he lacked any real insight into his offending or real empathy for his victim.
He said that O’Regan could hardly have found a more vulnerable victim than a 14 year old girl with Down Syndrome. He had exploited her innocence by engaging in sexual exchanges online and asking her for a topless photograph. ‘It was utterly exploitative and cruel,’ he said.
Judge Garavan said that he believed a sentence of seven months was appropriate and he made it consecutive to the two-year term O’Regan is currently serving for similar offences. He also ordered his name be placed on the Sex Offenders Register.