Friday 27 April 2018

Man (49) gets suspended sentence for sending lewd texts to boy (15)

Sonya McLean

A 49-year-old Dublin man has received a three year suspended sentence for sending crude text messages with a strong sexual content to a 15-year-old boy.

Kenneth Shortall of Bluebell Avenue, Bluebell, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to five charges of sending phone messages that were grossly offensive, indecent or obscene on dates between November 12 and November 23, 2010.

He had three previous convictions which included theft and criminal damage, the most recent of which was in 1996.

Tara Burns SC, prosecuting, said the book of evidence contained 61 such messages sent from Shortall’s phone to the teenager but the Director of Public Prosecutions accepted pleas to five charges.

The gardai were satisfied that some of those 61 messages were crude jokes that Shortall had forwarded to a number of people, including the teenager, in a group message.

Garda Kevin Lynn told the court that Shortall and his partner Colin Huggins had befriended the young boy and his family a number of months previously.

He had been sending the messages to the boy for just over a month when the teenager’s older friend noticed them and told the boy’s mother. The gardai were alerted in February 2011 as was the HSE. 

Gda Lynn agreed with Ms Burns that “nothing further arises” from either the garda or the HSE investigations.

The boy told gardaí he had asked Shortall to stop sending the messages but didn’t know when he had asked him to do so.

Shortall was arrested in May 2011 and although he acknowledged that he had been sending text messages to the boy he exercised his right to silence when questioned about the content in them.

He told gardaí that some of the texts were just slagging and banter between him and the teenager.

Ms Burns read out the five text messages that related to the charges Shortall had pleaded guilty to.

The first stated; “Good boy. What are you wearing? X Yeah I am horney. Been a long day up since 6.30 X”

The second read: “You always be my str8 bitch and I will ring you and ask about your c**k boxers”.

The third said: “So how is that little c**k of your’s doing?”

The fourth read: “Good. I am still going to slag you though and still going to get your cock”.

The fifth said: “I’m as horney as hell and I text you for saying what I want and I don’t hear anything from you?”

Judge Mary Ellen Ring told Keith Spencer BL, defending, that she would give his client “the benefit of the doubt” as to why he formed a friendship with this boy and his family in the first instance.

She said she understood banter between 15 year old boys but said Shortall was considerably older and that fact was very concerning.

“This kind of behaviour puts children and young people in a very difficult position to stop the person sending the messages and makes it difficult for them to tell someone,” the judge said.

“This form of contact is very ably done in society now where children of a very young age are in possession of phones,” Judge Ring continued.

Gda Lynn agreed with Mr Spencer that the boy replied to some of Shortall’s text message and accepted that many of the messages exchanged between them was “innocent banter”.

He accepted a suggestion from counsel that Shortall was “not interested in children at all and had overstepped the mark”.

Gda Lynn also said that he did not think Shortall would come before the courts again and agreed that he had not come to garda attention for 17 years before this offence.

Mr Huggins told Mr Spencer that he and Shortall had been in a relationship for 12 years and there was no question of his partner being interested in children or younger men.

He agreed that Shortall is extremely remorseful and regretful of his actions.

Mr Spencer said there is no animosity between Shortall and the boy and his family but added there is no contact between them.

Judge Ring suspended the entire sentence for three years and ordered that Shortall engage with the probation services for 18 months.

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