Man spared jail in 'Romeo' case
THE young man at the centre of the so-called 'Romeo and Juliet' court case has been given a six-month suspended jail sentence.
The 15-year-old had been charged with having sex with a 14-year-old girl in 2006.
The case attracted much notoriety in the media and became known as the 'Romeo and Juliet case' because the law allows the prosecution of teenage boys for having sex with teenage girls but prevent prosecution of the girls.
The man, who is now 21, is from Co Donegal but cannot be named. He pleaded guilty to the defilement of a child when he appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court yesterday
The man admitted the charge, which took place at a vacant house in 2006.
The court heard how the accused and another two boys and two girls entered the house after a ceili on August 5, 2006.
The girl admitted that she took part in various acts of intimacy, including performing oral sex on the boy. However, she denies that she ever consented to full sex with the boy.
Gardai were informed of the incident when another girl told her father and he informed the local school principal.
A full investigation was launched and the girl was taken to the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin for treatment.
The court heard that the young man had admitted to defiling the girl but claimed that the sex was consensual.
It also heard that the girl had suffered from depression as a result of the incident and was on medication.
Judge John O'Hagan said the case involved a couple of children who got together and their hormones ran away with them.
He said the Oireachtas had clearly recognised that this was not a "sexual predator" type of crime.
The judge also said that perhaps he was too old to answer some questions thrown up by the case.
"The circumstances surrounding how it happened are quite different than perhaps what some of we older generation might have experienced," he said. "Young people have different views about experimenting with their bodies."
He added that he was not in any way blaming the young girl or suggesting that she did anything wrong. But he added: "On the other hand, I am not suggesting (the man) did anything wrong in the heat of the circumstances of the moment."
Barristers for the young man said the case had been hanging over him for six years as appeals were made to both the High Curt and the Supreme Court.
Judge O'Hagan said he had no plans to impose a custodial sentence on the young man.
Instead, he sentenced him to six months in prison and suspended the term for 12 months.
The young man's mother wept in court as the sentence was passed on him.
He was charged under the 2006 Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act but will not be put on the sex offenders' register.
Section 3 of the Act created an offence of defilement of a child under 17 and provides for a sentence of up to five years. Section 5 states that a girl under 17 cannot be guilty of such an offence.
The High Court had ruled that while the law did amount to gender discrimination, that discrimination was not disproportionate because the risk of pregnancy was born by girls only.
The Supreme Court subsequently dismissed a challenge to that ruling.