A Louth man who had sex with a 15-year-old schoolgirl and made plans to run away with her to Northern Ireland has been jailed for two years, writes Aoife Nic Ardghail and Isabel Hayes.
The man (29), who can’t be named for legal reasons, told the girl he could get her a fake passport and said she would have to dye her hair and live under an assumed name if she wanted to stay with him.
The girl later told gardaí that she had consensual sex once with the then 25-year-old man as they stayed at various hotel accommodations over a few nights while waiting for the passport.
The man pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexual intercourse with a minor at a hotel in Co. Dublin between November 28 and December 6, 2013.
Sentencing him today Judge Cormac Quinn said the man “took advantage of a vulnerable young schoolgirl”.
“He knew she was a schoolgirl,” Judge Quinn said, noting the man bought the girl alcohol on a number of occasions and brought her to a hotel and a B&B.
The court heard the man has 38 previous convictions including assault, burglary, criminal damage and theft.
Judge Quinn handed down a three-year sentence, but suspended the final year on a number of conditions.
He accepted the man was remorseful and he noted the victim would probably not have been a co-operative witness had the matter gone to trial. She declined to give a victim impact statement.
At a sentence hearing earlier this year, Sergeant Louise McHugh told Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting, that the man met the schoolgirl outside a pub the previous summer and the two had kept in phone contact.
They met twice to play pool together and on another date the girl stayed with the man in a hotel after spending a night out drinking with him.
On each of these occasions, the man purchased all her food and drinks but they had no sexual relations.
The court heard the girl was on a half-day from school when she met the man at a shopping centre on November 28, while still in her uniform.
He bought her a €60 phone and they spent the day drinking together at the centre before she agreed to stay with him when she missed her bus home.
Over the next few nights, the man booked them into hotel and B&B accommodation and organised a change of clothing for the schoolgirl from his female friend.
He told the 15-year-old that they would stay at the final hotel a bit longer while they waited for the passport. He assured her he knew what he was doing as he had previously arranged a passport for a 16-year-old and nobody had ever found that teenager.
The girl told gardaí that the man had sex with her once and that she had been happy to run away with him. She said she hadn’t planned to leave home but that it “just happened” after she missed her bus and didn’t want to get into trouble with her mother.
She said that another couple joined them in the hotel room for the last few nights and she described spending the daytime with the female while the men went out to work.
The court heard gardaí tracked the girl down to an internet cafe on December 6, after stopping the man and his male friend on a different street.
The girl told officers that the ten year age gap between her and the man didn’t bother either of them and that while he never said he loved her, she felt there was something there.
She declined to make a victim impact statement.
Sgt McHugh agreed with Dominic McGinn SC, defending, that his client had had a history of self harm and had made serious attempts to take his own life. She further agreed that he had co-operated with gardaí fully.
Mc McGinn submitted that it was the disparity in age that made the case against his client as there was no evidence of coercion or violence.
Referring to a psychologist’s report, Mr McGinn submitted that some of the tragic elements of his client’s background had been the catalyst for drug abuse and anti-social behaviour.
The court heard the man tried to take his own life three weeks before the incident with the girl and that he was at a place in his life where he was looking for support.
He has been in custody since May of last year and is an enhanced prisoner. A favourable governor’s report was handed up to court.
Judge Quinn backdated the sentence to when the man went into custody.