A man has been jailed for three years for having sex with a 15-year-old girl he met after grooming her using a fake social media profile.
Conor O’Keefe, aged 26, set up a profile as a teenage girl called ‘Julie’ on the website Tagged.com and started chatting with the victim. He later claimed he was Julie’s older brother ‘Adam’ and persuaded the girl to get a taxi to his house in the early hours of the morning, where they had sex.
Judge Sarah Berkeley called it a “sinister” offence which highlights the dangers of social media “and the opportunity it creates”. She noted that there was no threat, force, or coercion used against the girl and that she was a “willing participant”. However, she said O’Keefe put pressure on her by expressing disappointment when she was reluctant to perform sexual acts.
“I do not attribute any blame to her in any way,” Judge Berkeley said.
“She was a child at the time and is entitled to the protection of the courts.”
The judge noted O’Keefe knew the girl had been a virgin and that he told her she had to select one of three options: Sexual intercourse, oral sex, or masturbation.
The court heard O’Keefe set up the profile out of “loneliness and isolation” and that he had a “somewhat difficult” childhood.
O’Keefe of Oakdale Close, Ballycullen pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sex with a child in July 2011. He was found guilty of a further count of sexual exploitation of a child by a jury last month following a three day trial.
He was to be sentenced last November but the case was adjourned as O’Keefe’s partner had given birth to their first child the day before.
O’Keefe, an apprentice plumber, has no previous convictions and is now on the sex offenders register. He was 22 at the time.
The court heard he is taking part in therapy and the Safer Lives programme, which is run by the Probation Service.
Fiona Murphy, prosecuting, handed in a victim impact statement prepared by the girl into court. The girl did not wish to give evidence and the report was not read in open court.
Damien Colgan, defending, submitted this was a “once-off” event. He said O’Keefe had found he could not interact with his peers and found himself depressed and isolated leading to him creating the false profile.
Mr Colgan handed in a probation report and a psychological report and asked the court to consider non-custodial options.
O’Keefe faced a maximum possible sentence of 14 years imprisonment.
Calling it a grave and serious offence, Judge Berkeley imposed a five-year sentence with the final two years suspended for two years.
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