A 54-year-old man who founded a youth club and groomed a 16-year-old boy before engaging in sexual acts with him at his home has been given a two-and-a-half year prison sentence.
Patrick Lynn of Greenhills Estate, Ballina, admitted two charges of defilement of a child under the age of 17 between 30 May, 2014 and 6 June, 2014 at locations in a County Mayo town and at a west Sligo location.
At a sitting of the Circuit Court in Mullingar last Tuesday, Judge Keenan Johnson said Lynn, who previously founded a youth club some years prior to the offences, was guilty of a grievous breach of trust and some form of custodial sentence would have to be imposed.
He said the offences were in the mid to upper range and he had a four-year headline prison sentence in mind, but would suspend one year and six months of the sentence for a ten-year period because of mitigating factors.
After passing sentence, Judge Johnson adjourned the case until December 1st to give an opportunity to Lynn to put arrangements in place for his elderly mother who he is caring for.
Evidence in the case had originally been outlined at a sitting of Sligo Circuit Court in June 2018 and sentencing had been adjourned to last week.
Lynn had pleaded guilty to the offences.
Judge Johnson had noted with "concern" the fact that Lynn had founded a youth club some years prior.
Garda Mary Tighe told the court in Sligo that the victim had just finished Transition Year in 2014 and had spent some time on work experience in a shop in the West Sligo location.
Lynn also worked in a nearby business and would give the victim left over cakes and buns whenever the victim was alone.
Lynn approached the victim one day and asked him to go to his house for a coffee.
The victim declined and went home, but on his way home he noticed a Facebook message from Lynn.
Lynn mentioned seeing them in the shop and the victim said it was "innocent enough".
Ms Dara Foynes SC (prosecuting) said the boy said Lynn came into the shop again and this time asked what age he was. The victim replied he was 16 years old.
Ms Foynes said Lynn continued to message the boy through Facebook and asked for his mobile number.
Lynn's questions became suggestive in nature and the boy became "uncomfortable".
Lynn asked the boy to meet him, which he agreed to do "because he wanted it to stop."
Lynn picked the boy up in his car, which had air freshener and rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror.
They travelled to Lynn's family home, where the single bachelor lived with his elderly parents.
Ms Foynes said Lynn told the boy to go upstairs to his room where he pulled down the boy's trousers and engaged in a sex act.
On the second occasion, Lynn drove the boy to a coastal location and engaged in a sex act with him in his car.
The victim told Lynn he wouldn't be meeting him again after that and ignored all messages from him from then on, blocking him on Facebook.
In a statement read out by Ms Foynes, the victim said Lynn never threatened him but "he knew that I was uncomfortable and upset and he knew I was sixteen years."
The offence only came to light when the victim's mother had to borrow his laptop and the Facebook messages from Lynn popped up.
She felt the messages were "sexual" in nature and showed them to her oldest daughter who she then asked to monitor Facebook.
The mother said when she brought it up with her son he wouldn't answer.
The victim's sister was very concerned on viewing the messages which she said were "suggestive" and felt "it was obvious something was going on."
Ms Foynes said arrangements were made for the victim to go into the local Garda Station and make a formal complaint against Lynn.
Garda Tighe told the court that when Lynn was asked if he knew why he was later arrested, he said "yes."
Garda Tighe said Lynn told investigating Gardaí that the boy would come up to him and told him he was gay - "he came on to me," he told detectives.
Lynn said he was giving 'advice' to the boy and confirmed the sexual activity in the car took place, said Garda Tighe.
She said Lynn admitted to Gardaí he had "actively gone looking for him on Facebook."
She said all the Facebook contact by Lynn came through a Youth Club Facebook page for a local Youth Club which Lynn had founded some years previously.
That Facebook page has since been deleted.
"Were there many members?" asked Judge Johnson.
"Yes, over the years," replied Garda Tighe.
"Was Patrick Lynn the founder?" he asked.
"Yes, I believe so," replied the Garda.
Ms Foynes said Lynn had "been involved with youth work for many years".
Judge Johnson asked if at any stage, did Lynn accept the boy was 16 years.
Ms Foynes said Lynn told Gardaí the victim seemed mature and thought he was 18 years.
"Hand on my heart I didn't, (think he was younger)" Lynn told Gardaí.
In his Victim Impact Statement the victim said Lynn "robbed me of my privacy", robbed him of his "sense of safety" and his "sense of judgement."
He said he was now bombarded with doubt and the offences were constantly on his mind.
"He still has an opportunity to do the same to someone else," he wrote.
He said his confidence had "taken a serious knock" and he's afraid of seeing Lynn or a member of his family on the street.
"I can't enjoy nights out with my friends or staff parties.
"I feel alone and isolated, even though my family are there still for me," he told the court.
The victim also said he felt the whole situation was a "nightmare that has dragged on for four years."
Mr Colm Smyth SC (defending) said Lynn wanted to put this behind him and had pleaded guilty.
"He's made a firm promise to amend his ways and he's worked hard to get together compensation, through very hard work, of ¤4,500 in a very short space of time," said Mr Smyth.
"This shows he has genuine concern about this whole business," he said.
Judge Johnson said Lynn was "well advised to plead guilty" after looking at photographs of the victim.
Lynn apologised to his victim.
"I never meant any harm for the lad. That's coming from the heart," he told Judge Johnson.
When asked about the compensation he had gathered, Lynn said he worked two days a week and had gotten as much together as he could.
"It's hard to say how sorry I am. It should never have happened.
"I respect him going forward in life. I wish him all success in the future," he told the judge.
A Probation Report put Lynn at a "moderate" risk of re-offending.
"You abused your position. You should hang your head in shame.
"You've possibly ruined that young man's life," Judge Johnson said to Lynn.
He said Lynn's creation of a Youth Club was "a most concerning aspect" of the case.
"You were in a position of trust and you abused that trust in an outrageous fashion," he told Lynn.
Judge Johnson said he was reserving his position until Lynn had been assessed to see if he was suitable for the sex offender treatment programme.