A 49-year-old Dublin man has received a three-year suspended sentence for sending crude text messages with a strong sexual content to a 15-year-old boy.
Kenneth Shortall, of Bluebell Ave, Bluebell, Dublin 12, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to five charges of sending phone messages that were grossly offensive, indecent, or obscene on dates between Nov 12 and Nov 23, 2010.
He had three previous convictions, which included theft and criminal damage, the most recent of which was in 1996.
Tara Burns SC, prosecuting, said the book of evidence contained 61 such messages sent from Shortall’s phone to the teenager, but the Director of Public Prosecutions accepted pleas to five charges.
Gardaí were satisfied that some of those 61 messages were crude jokes that Shortall had forwarded to a number of people, including the teen, in a group message.
Garda Kevin Lynn told the court that Shortall and his partner, Colin Huggins, had befriended the boy and his family a number of months previously.
He had been sending the messages to the boy for just over a month when the teenager’s older friend noticed them and told the boy’s mother. Gardaí were alerted in Feb 2011, as was the HSE.
Gda Lynn agreed with Ms Burns that “nothing further arises” from either the garda or the HSE investigations.
The boy told gardaí he had asked Shortall to stop sending the messages but did not know when he had asked him to do so.
Shortall was arrested in May 2011 and although he acknowledged he had been sending text messages to the boy, he exercised his right to silence when questioned about their content.
He told gardaí that some of the texts were just slagging and banter between him and the teenager.
Ms Burns read out the five text messages that related to the charges Shortall had pleaded guilty to.
One text stated; “Good boy. What are you wearing? X Yeah I am horney. Been a long day up since 6.30 X”
Judge Mary Ellen Ring told Keith Spencer, BL, defending, that she would give his client “the benefit of the doubt” as to why he formed a friendship with this boy and his family in the first instance.
She said she understood banter between 15-year-old boys, but said Shortall was considerably older and that fact was very concerning.
“This kind of behaviour puts children and young people in a difficult position to stop the person sending the messages and makes it difficult for them to tell someone,” the judge said.
“This form of contact is very ably done in society now, where children of a very young age are in possession of phones,” said Judge Ring.
Gda Lynn agreed with Mr Spencer that the boy replied to some of Shortall’s text message and accepted that many of the messages exchanged between them was “innocent banter”.
He accepted a suggestion from counsel that Shortall was “not interested in children at all and had overstepped the mark”.
Gda Lynn also said he did not think Shortall would come before the courts again and agreed he had not come to garda attention for 17 years before this offence.
Mr Huggins told Mr Spencer that he and Shortall had been in a relationship for 12 years and there was no question of his partner being interested in children or younger men.
He agreed that Shortall is extremely remorseful and regretful of his actions.
Mr Spencer said there is no animosity between Shortall and the boy and his family but added there is no contact between them.
Judge Ring suspended the entire sentence and ordered that Shortall engage with the probation services for 18 months.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved