A Pakistani man jailed for travelling to meet a 13-year-old girl with the intention of doing an act that would constitute sexual exploitation, in what was the first prosecution taken under child protection legislation, had his sentence reduced at the Court of Appeal today.
Muhammad Hussain, with a last address at Steam Boat Quay, Limerick City, pleaded not guilty to travelling to meet a child with the intention of doing an act that would constitute sexual exploitation on July 22, 2011.
He was sentenced to four years imprisonment by Judge Sarah Berkeley at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on April 4 2014.
Hussain successfully appealed against his sentence in the Court of Appeal on the 16th of February and a reduced sentence was imposed yesterday.
Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan stated that the Court of Appeal’s ruling was for the sentence to be reduced to three years with the final nine months suspended.
Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan, who sat with Mr Justice Gerard Hogan and Ms Justice Mary Irvine, said: “The sentence of four years was appropriate before mitigation.”
In a report the court received from the assistant-governor of the Midlands Prison in Port Laoise, the court heard that there were no disciplinary issues relating to the appellant since his conviction and he had been attending classes.
The court heard the appellant “invited” the child which was “distinct from inducing or coercing the child” and that the “gravity of this offence…is at the lower end of the spectrum.”
But Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan said “no matter where it is placed”, she continued by saying it is an “inherently serious offence”.
She said the appellant had “made admissions of fact to the Gardaí…had no previous relevant convictions” and had “a good work ethic record and was supporting his family in Pakistan”.
She added the appellant had expressed remorse and was “a foreign national far from home without family support”.
The Court of Appeal stated that the appellant’s reduced sentence had three conditions.
The first was that he must keep the peace and be of good behaviour. Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan also stated that if the prison authorities offer him a course/counselling relevant to the offence committed that he will co-operate and attend.
While the third condition of the reduced sentence related to his compliance with a deportation order which had been issued by the Immigration Authority.
Mr Hussain took an undertaking not to appeal the order upon his release.
Speaking at the hearing yesterday (Monday), Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan said the conditions of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 will apply to the appellant and he will remain on the Sex Offenders Registry.
Giving background to the case at the hearing in February, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan said Hussain met the intended victim, Ms F, in the early hours of May 25 2011.
Ms F was 13-years-old at the time, she had been residing in institutional care but did, however, have frequent contact with her mother. Hussain was 29-years-old at the time.
On the evening in question Ms F and her friend left the residence and got a taxi into the city.
Walking along a road on their own, they met Hussain. He had been travelling in a car with a friend and had stopped at some traffic lights and engaged in a conversation with the two girls. One of either Hussain or his friend, asked the two girls if they were prostitutes, the judge said.
The two girls struck up a conversation, got into the car, spent the rest of the evening with the two men and exchanged telephone numbers. They told Hussain and his friend they were 19 years of age.
Hussain rang the telephone number several times. Her mother answered on one occasion and she told him her daughter was 13 years of age, had gone missing and it was not known where her she was.
On July 17, 2011, Ms F retook her phone from her mother and sent a text to Hussain asking him to make contact. There then followed an exchange of telephone calls and text messages.
On July 22, Ms F and her mother received a telephone call from Hussain. It was recorded by Ms F's mother and played to the jury.
It was clear Hussain wanted to meet Ms F, the judge said. He was offering to bring her items including alcohol and mobile phone credit. In that call he admitted he was aware of her age.
While it appears there was some discussion about sex and sexual matters in that telephone call, Hussain did not commit himself to anything.
He agreed to meet Ms F at a particular location that evening. The gardaí were then contacted by Ms F and her mother and they arrested Hussain at the location.