He's been sentenced at Tullamore Circuit Criminal Court.
A man who allowed a sexual relationship to develop between himself and his best friend’s teenage daughter has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for the sexual exploitation of a child.
Tullamore Circuit Criminal Court heard the accused had engaged in inappropriate texting of the schoolgirl followed by kissing and touching her at a vulnerable period in her life four years ago.
The 53-year-old father of three, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, had pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual exploitation of a child under Section 3 of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998.
The man admitted inducing the girl to engage in a sexual act at a location in the midlands on March 18, 2017.
The court heard that the girl, who was 15-years-old at the time of the offence, had been vulnerable as her father had just begun a relationship with a new partner.
At a sentence hearing, Judge Keenan Johnson said the girl had regarded the accused, who was her father’s best friend, as someone on whose shoulder she could cry but had become infatuated with him.
Instead of offering help and support, the judge said the accused was flattered by the attention and had begun sending “extremely inappropriate, graphic and obscene” text messages to the girl over a six-week period, while also engaging in inappropriate kissing and touching of the teenager.
He noted the man had breached his position of trust as a lifelong friend of the girl’s family by actively engaging in the sexual exploitation of the girl.
Counsel for the DPP, William Fennelly BL, said the victim’s family had been very concerned at a comment made by the accused to a probation officer that he had not been the first person to be targeted in such a manner by the girl.
Mr Fennelly said the family did not accept what the man had said and there was no evidence to support such a claim.
Judge Johnson said he was also shocked that such comments would have been made to try and claim he had been manipulated by his victim.
The judge said such remarks were misguided and hurtful and he noted that the teenager had been unable to come to court because of the stress of the case.
In a victim impact statement, the girl described how her life had been turned upside down by the man’s actions which had also created divisions in her family.
The teenager said she had missed school and suffered severe panic attacks.
She also explained how she felt taken advantage of and betrayed by the accused.
Although the teenager had not spoken to her father’s family for four years, Judge Johnson said the situation had improved and they were now on good terms.
He said the court understood the stress felt by the victim but noted that the accused’s guilty plea had vindicated her position.
The judge said the grooming of the girl, a level of pre-meditation and the 35-year age gap between the accused and his victim were aggravating factors in the case.
Others included the breach of trust and the man’s inability to accept full and sole responsibility for what he had done.
The court heard the accused had no previous convictions and he was assessed as a low risk of reoffending.
Judge Johnson said he accepted the offence was “a once-off aberration” while character testimonies had described the man as a kind, honest person who was a good friend and neighbour.
Sentencing the accused to two and a half years in prison, the judge said he would suspend the final 12 months for a period of ten years on condition that the accused keep the peace for that period and have no further contact with his victim.