Monday 16 July 2018

Man is jailed for sexually exploiting and defiling girl he groomed online

The Central Criminal Court (stock photo)
The Central Criminal Court (stock photo)

Sonya McLean

A 25-year-old Dublin man has been jailed for six and a half years for the online sexual exploitation and defilement of a young girl six years ago.

Darragh Meehan was 19 when he met the 13-year-old girl and they later began communicating online via Skype, Facebook and texting on a regular basis.

He exposed himself and masturbated during Skype sessions and invited the girl to masturbate or penetrate herself.

During a meeting in person, Meehan asked the girl to masturbate him and performed sexual acts on her.

The girl's mother contacted gardaí after finding concerning messages on her laptop.

Meehan, of Dargle Wood, Knocklyon, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to one count of defilement and three counts of sexual exploitation of the girl on dates between December 2011 and May 2012. He had no previous convictions.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said Meehan had groomed the victim, who he described as "a child in the full sense".

He noted that she didn't resist Meehan when he made her perform oral sex on him but said she had not given "true consent".

"She was induced to submit because of the manipulation and grooming that had taken place," the judge said.

He said the victim had been having difficulties at the time dealing with the psychological and physical changes that come with being an adolescent.

Mr Justice McCarthy described the victim-impact report as "impressive" and said it demonstrated "maturity" on her part.

He said she had made obvious efforts to come to terms with what had happened. "I hope she will continue to do so."

The judge accepted that Meehan was a person "otherwise of good character" without a criminal record.

He accepted evidence that Meehan was unlikely to re- offend in the future and said he believed he could be rehabilitated to become a "useful member of society".

He sentenced Meehan to six and a half years for the defilement charge and a concurrent five years for the charges of sexual exploitation.

The now 19-year-old woman said in her victim impact statement she had been going through a tough time at the time of the offences and felt quite low in herself.

She said after meeting Meehan he quickly became someone she confided in and that he made her feel special.

"I feel he used my vulnerability to his advantage to get what he wanted," she said. She said afterwards she was angry and upset at what had happened and just wanted to forget about it.

She said people told her at the time that it was not her fault but she could not see it.

"It was something that happened to me, not something I made happen," she said.

She described going through a "whirlwind of emotion" and becoming protective of younger people around her as well as distrustful of new people. She said seeing someone who looked like Meehan transported her back to the young girl she was at the time.

The woman said she had been in a bad place at the beginning of this process but now felt stronger and was hopeful her quality of life would continue to improve.

Sean Gillane SC, defending, said Meehan had written a letter of apology to the victim in which he indicated he had hurt her in a way she should not have been hurt.

He accepted what he did was wrong and was "whole-heartedly sorry" for what he did and the abuse of her trust.

Irish Independent

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