Saturday 24 February 2018

Former paramedic used false ID to contact sexual assault victims on Facebook


Jessica Magee

A former HSE paramedic has been jailed for five-and-a-half years for sexually assaulting three young boys in separate incidents after he used false identities to contact each victim by text message or on Facebook.

Alan Coughlan (42), of Elm Mount Park, Beaumont, Dublin 9, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault and four counts of defilement of children under the age of 17 between 2009 and 2011.

He also admitted possessing 29 images of child pornography in a scrap book at his home on November 24, 2011.

Coughlan's sentencing hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that 18 of those images were considered to be in the most serious category of child pornography.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said the charges were very serious and that Coughlan had sought out three children by using social media and other contacts to build up trust.

She said he had used false names, ages and images to suggest that he was a teenager and had abused the children at a "particularly vulnerable" stage of their development. Judge Ring noted that the effects of such abuse could be life-long.

Gardai were alerted to the offences after Coughlan sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy in the back of his jeep in a shopping centre car park on November 20, 2011.

The victim's friends saw him getting into Coughlan's jeep and contacted gardai, who later arrested the accused and searched his home. The boy later told gardai that Coughlan sexually assaulted him, including performing oral sex, before giving him €25.

In a victim impact statement, the boy said he was unhappy, angry and upset and had flashbacks of what had happened and cut himself several times.

Gardai used Coughlan's mobile phones to contact two earlier victims who later made statements. One said he had tried to hang himself and overdosed on sleeping tablets after Coughlan's attack.

Sentencing Coughlan to seven years in prison with the final 18 months suspended, Judge Ring said the mitigating factors included his efforts at rehabilitation and his previous good record.

She ordered that he be supervised by the Probation Services for 18 months on his release.

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