A 42-year-old father of four has been jailed for nine years for grooming a 14-year-old girl for sex after he had made contact with her through Facebook.
Cathal Donnelly, with addresses at Carane, Ballintubber, Co Roscommon and Lanesboro, Co Longford, was given a number of lesser, concurrent sentences for the possession, production and distribution of child pornography.
At his sentencing hearing in Roscommon Circuit Court yesterday, Judge Tony Hunt said that the offences were "as serious as it gets".
Donnelly had pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation of a minor on dates between August 1 and September 29 in 2010 at a previous court hearing.
He had also admitted having possession of child pornography at Tullyrane, Ballymahon Road, Lanesboro, Co Longford on September 29, 2010; to the distribution of child pornography on April 30, 2010; and to the production of child pornography on a date between May and August 2010.
A further 12 charges before the court were considered.
The court had heard that Donnelly came to the attention of gardai in 2010 after he was detected by Scottish police authorities in a sting operation in Edinburgh.
He had been identified by an undercover policewoman while making contact with teenage girls on internet chat rooms.
Gardai initially discovered the child pornography on a desktop computer and two hard drives at his addresses in counties Roscommon and Longford.
Children aged as young as six were depicted engaging in sexual activity with adult males – one image showed a child tied up and engaged in sex with an animal.
Their enquiries then led to the discovery that Donnelly had also groomed a teenage girl for sexual acts over a period of two months in 2010. Some of the material seized during the investigation identified the young girl carrying out sexual acts on Donnelly.
The court heard that Donnelly groomed the 14-year-old for sexual acts over an eight-week period in 2010 during which he had sent her over 3,600 text messages.
He had come into contact with her by using Facebook and in the weeks that followed, mobile phone numbers were exchanged.
After a short time Donnelly began 'sexting' the girl and grooming her to carry out sexual acts.
Over 8,000 text messages had been sent between Donnelly and the girl over a two-month period, the court heard.
The teenage girl told gardai that Donnelly had initially asked if she had "done it before", which she took to mean sex. He had asked if she would give him oral sex and, because she felt intimidated, she had replied "yes".
When he told her he was 39, she had felt sick – it had been her first sexual experience. Donnelly, who previously worked as an IT technician, made full admissions when arrested by gardai. The girl declined to make a victim impact statement.
In court yesterday, Judge Hunt noted that the accused man had demonstrated his very serious intention of promoting his interest in child sexual activity.
"He was doing this to gratify himself and storing up the images for future gratification and for that of others of like mind," Judge Hunt added.
Noting that the victim had been "prematurely sexualised" he said that the appropriate sentence for sexually exploiting her was nine years with varying lesser sentences on the child pornography charges.
He also directed that he attend at the Probation Service for post-release supervision for four years. He told him to stay away from the internet and refrain from befriending, associating with or otherwise engaging with persons under 18.