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Thursday 28 August 2014

Daughter (14) 'lost her teenage years' to Facebook predator

David Raleigh and Breda Heffernan

Published 24/11/2012 | 05:00

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THE MOTHER of a 14-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and later 'groomed' on Facebook by her attacker has said her daughter has lost out on her teenage years.

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The woman, who cannot be named as it would identify her daughter, urged other parents to monitor their children's use of the social networking site, saying "sex beasts" are going online and targeting kids.

Father-of-three Owen O'Donoghue (39) from Fairgreen, Garryowen in Limerick, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the 14-year-old girl and was sentenced to 10 months in prison with the final six months suspended.

He was also placed on the sex offenders register for five years.

Judge Eugene O'Kelly, presiding over the case at Limerick District Court, could only impose a maximum sentence of up to 12 months. O'Donoghue is appealing the sentence and is free on bail as he awaits a hearing.

Gardai believe O'Donoghue was grooming his victim when he sent her sexually explicit Facebook messages.

The victim's mother and children's charities have hit out at the sentence saying it does not match the crime.

The girl – who suffers nightmares and flashbacks – was a friend of one of Mr O'Donoghue's children at the time he kissed and fondled her in his home in June last year.

Matters only came to light when the girl's older sister came across the sexually graphic messages sent by O'Donoghue to the teenager's Facebook page.

The girl's mother said: "I think he should have got a longer sentence . . . I don't feel we got justice."

"I don't think he should be allowed to appeal it. I know it's his right, but I think it's wrong. I think all sexual assault cases should be heard in the Circuit Court so that they are open to a higher sentence, because these cases are wrecking kids lives."

She said her daughter had lost her "teenage life" and finds it difficult to trust people.

The Irish Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), also expressed concern over O'Donoghue's sentence and urged parents to to be vigilant over online safety.

Facebook has insisted that it is "one of the safest places for people to spend time on the web".

Zero tolerance

"We have a zero-tolerance policy for child exploitative activity on the site and when such illegal behaviour is detected Facebook works with law enforcement agencies to ensure that these people are brought to justice," said a spokeswoman.

Facebook said it has a number of measures designed to protect users who are aged from 13 to 17-years-old including preventing adults from 'friending' young users unless they have an existing social connection. In the Limerick case, O'Donoghue was able to 'friend' the 14-year-old girl as she was a friend of one of his children.

Childline can be contacted free of charge at 1800 66 66 66, by free texting Talk to 50101, or at www.childline.ie.

Irish Independent

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