Man groomed girl, 14, on Facebook before sexually assaulting her

Owen O'Donoghue
Owen O'Donoghue

A father of three who sexually assaulted a girl after grooming her and later sent her explicit messages on Facebook has been given a four-month jail sentence.

Owen O’Donoghue, aged 39, who pleaded guilty to sexual assault yesterday, is to appeal the jail term.

The court heard O’Donoghue fondled and kissed the girl on the back of her neck in his home on Jun 10, 2011.

The 14-year-old was a friend of one of O’Donoghue’s children, Limerick District Court heard.

The girl’s mother told the court that following the assault her daughter had lost friends and suffers from nightmares and flashbacks. An offer of compensation was rejected by the girl.

“The nightmares are unreal. She says she can still hear him breathing down her neck. How could a man do this to a child. She trusted him. She has known him since she was a baby,” the victim’s mother added.

Judge Eugene O’Kelly said it was an “extremely serious breach of trust”.

“It was a dreadful breach of trust,” the judge said.

Solicitor Chris Lynch, said his client was “at a loss to explain his loss of control”.

He said O’Donoghue, with an address at Fairgreen, Garryowen, Limerick, was unemployed, but was “very highly thought of in the bar trade” and “has been offered work”.

Judge O’Kelly told Mr O’Donoghue: “It seems it was more than a momentary lapse. It only came to light when [the girl’s] sister noticed the content on Facebook.

“The content was extremely graphic and so explicit that [the girl] wasn’t able to understand some of it,” Judge O’Kelly said.

The content was not described in court.

“Gardaí believed that Mr O’Donoghue was grooming this young girl and so it puts it in the more serious scale.

“Had it not been detected [on Facebook], it’s very difficult to comprehend what might have transpired,” the judge added.

Before passing sentence, Judge O’Kelly asked the victim if she would consider accepting an offer of compensation, adding: “I’m not suggesting he buy off a custodial sentence.”

The judge noted Mr O’Donoghue had “not forced the girl to give evidence” by pleading guilty, and he had no convictions.

However, the judge said he would “have to impose a custodial sentence” after the girl rejected the offer of compensation.

Outside the court the girl’s mother said: “This is not justice. I can’t understand this system, I honestly can’t.”

The girl waived her right to anonymity, which allowed Mr O’Donoghue’s name to be published.


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