The judge said there a number of mitigating factors.
A Clare man who had sex with an underage teenager he met online after lying to her about his age has received a fully suspended sentence.
The man (22), who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, pleaded guilty to four sample counts of defilement of a child in Co Westmeath and Co Clare on dates between July 2016 and December 2016. He has no previous convictions.
The Central Criminal Court heard that the man began to speak to the girl on Facebook when she was aged 15 and the offences took place when she was aged 16.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Paul McDermott noted that it was not said in the case that the victim was physically assaulted or coerced or contained against her will.
Mr Justice McDermott said the offences were aggravated by the disparity in ages, the deception employed by the man regarding his own age and the man showing “a selfish disregard for her as a person”.
He said there was substantial mitigation, including the man being under the age of 18 when communication began with the victim, the man's plea of guilty, his expression of regret and remorse and his lack of previous convictions.
Mr Justice McDermott sentenced the man to two-and-a-half years imprisonment. He said that having regard for the probation report, testimonials written on the man's behalf and the mitigating factors, he judged there was a positive benefit for this sentence being served in the community.
He therefore suspended the sentence in full on strict conditions, including that the man follow all directions of the Probation Service for three years and refrain from directly or indirectly contacting the victim or her friends and family.
At a previous sentencing hearing, a local garda told John Fitzgerald SC, prosecuting, that the man first contacted the teenager on Facebook in August 2015 and they began to exchange regular messages. The man initially claimed to be aged 16 when he was in fact 17 years old.
The garda said that the man began sending the teenager explicit photos of himself and encouraged her to send him similar photos of herself.
They met in person for the first time in July 2016 at a birthday party. While alone together in a tent, the man repeatedly asked for oral sex and sex, both of which the girl eventually agreed to after initially saying no.
The man and the teenager had sex on three occasions over the next two days. The man did not wear a condom on any of these occasions.
In December 2016, the teenager visited the man's home. While in the man's bedroom, the teenager was propositioned by the man's brother and his cousin.
The man forced her head down towards his penis while the other males were in the room, but the teenager kept saying no. The man and the teenager then went downstairs and had sex.
The teenager later told gardaí that the entire time she was in the house she felt scared and intimidated. She said that no one forced her to stay, but she had nowhere else to go.
In interview with gardaí, the man said he did not know what the age of consent was, but he thought that it was not an offence if there were two years between the two people. He admitted that he had sex with the teenager and that he had lied about his age.