Teen guilty of consensual sex with minor won't go to prison
A teenager who was just 19 when he had consensual sex with a girl aged 16 has been given an 11-month suspended prison sentence.
Jason Higgins, of Farran in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, pleaded guilty in October to an offence which was designed "to penalise predatory paedophiles, not love-struck teenagers," his solicitor told Mullingar District Court.
Defence spoke on behalf of Mr Higgins before Judge John Neilan made his final decision in the case.
The court was told Mr Higgins had been "genuinely shocked" to discover that the age of consent was 17, not 16, and had immediately pleaded guilty and made "a full and frank statement."
Since then, his name had been "splashed across the papers".
The court was told Mr Higgins had a low IQ and, while he had successfully managed primary school, he went to a special secondary school.
Speaking through state solicitor Peter Jones, the girl's family said they didn't want Mr Higgins to go to jail, but also did not want him "next, nigh or near" her.
Suspending the sentence for three years, the judge ordered Mr Higgins to keep away from his victim. He said he had no intention of placing him on the sex offenders' register.
The judge commended the girl's family for their generosity in wishing that Mr Higgins not be jailed but said the young man had "visited a nightmare" on the girl and her family.
He said he was not suggesting Mr Higgins was predatory but pointed out that he had been "aiming for one thing and one thing only, sexual intercourse" when he met the 16-year-old girl at a location in Westmeath in the summer of 2008. They had been in a relationship for a month.
He also warned Mr Higgins about the behaviour of some of his friends whose language and conduct had been "extremely distressing" for the girl.
The judge was severely critical of media commentary on the case, some of which he described as "very salacious and unwise" and "extremely offensive" to young people and the issues before the court.