Sunday 4 December 2016

Three years' jail for man who groomed teen online for sex

Conor Gallagher

Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30

Conor O’Keefe (26), of Oakdale Close, Ballycullen, Dublin, outside court. Photo: Courtpix
Conor O’Keefe (26), of Oakdale Close, Ballycullen, Dublin, outside court. Photo: Courtpix

A man has been jailed for three years for having sex with a 15-year-old girl he met after grooming her using a fake social media profile.

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Conor O'Keefe (26) set up a profile as a teenage girl called 'Julie' on the website Tagged.com and started chatting with the victim. He later claimed he was Julie's older brother 'Adam' and persuaded the girl to get a taxi to his house in the early hours of the morning where they had sex.

Judge Sarah Berkeley called it a "sinister" offence which highlighted the dangers of social media "and the opportunity it creates".

She noted that there was no threat, force or coercion used against the girl and that she was a "willing participant".

However, she said O'Keefe put pressure on her by expressing disappointment when she was reluctant to perform sexual acts. "I do not attribute any blame to her in any way," Judge Berkeley said.

"She was a child at the time and is entitled to the protection of the courts."

The judge noted that O'Keefe knew she was a virgin and that he told her she had to select one of three options: sexual intercourse, oral sex or masturbation.

The court heard he set up the profile out of "loneliness and isolation" and that he had a "somewhat difficult" childhood.

Trial

O'Keefe, of Oakdale Close, Ballycullen, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sex with a child in July 2011. He was found guilty of a further count of sexual exploitation of a child by a jury last month following a three-day trial.

He was to be sentenced last November, but the case was adjourned as O'Keefe's partner had given birth to their first child the day before. O'Keefe, an apprentice plumber, has no previous convictions and is now on the sex offenders register.

He was 22 years old at the time of the offences. The court heard he is taking part in therapy and the 'Safer Lives' programme which is run by the Probation Service.

Defence counsel Damien Colgan SC handed in a probation report and a psychological report and asked the court to consider non-custodial options.

Calling it a grave and serious offence, Judge Berkeley imposed a five-year sentence with the final two years suspended for two years.

Commenting on the sentencing of O'Keefe, Cliona Saidlear, head of Rape Crisis Network Ireland, said: "The grooming of children, including teenagers, for sex is a serious offence. Grooming is a weapon that most cruelly uses the victim against themselves.

"A predator, in grooming, seeks to make the victim active and blameworthy of the crime being committed against them.

"It is critical that we challenge grooming by ensuring we consistently identify and condemn grooming, placing the blame where it belongs, on the predator," she added.

Irish Independent

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