‘Isolated’ man used internet to blackmail teen girls

An “isolated” man who sexually exploited 24 girls through Skype, WhatsApp, and other online communications has been given a six-year sentence, with half of the term suspended.

‘Isolated’ man used internet to blackmail teen girls

An “isolated” man who sexually exploited 24 girls through Skype, WhatsApp, and other online communications has been given a six-year sentence, with half of the term suspended.

Michael O’Regan, aged 40, of 22 Assumption Place, Clonakilty, Co Cork, commenced his sentence of three years yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. He will be under the direction of the Probation Service for three years post-release and will be required to undertake the Safer Lives programme not already completed in jail.

O’Regan got some of the victims to send him naked pictures of themselves and then threatened he would post these online if they did not agree to further actions. All the contacts were online. He never met any of the victims in person.

Ronan Barnes, defending, said O’Regan never intended to meet any of them.

Detective Garda James Keane investigated the case that extended to two books of evidence covering February 2015 to October 2017.

Det Garda Keane said the accused used social media such as WhatsApp and Skype to contact the girls. O’Regan set up a false profile as a male under the age of 18 and engaged in sexualised conversations with girls.

“He offered inducements for sexualised phone calls,” said Det Garda Keane. “On some occasions, he threat-ened to post nude pictures of them online to further engage in sexual exploitation. He sent pictures of his genitalia to young girls.

“In one case, a sexual act was carried out on Skype video. From February 2015 to October 2017, there were 24 charges [of sexual exploitation] relating to 24 injured parties. Their age profile was 12 to 16 years. The majority of them are Irish-based. Some are in the US and the UK. Some of the victims have been identified.”

Mr Barnes said the guilty plea was significant as it may have been difficult to prove the ages of all the parties in the charges.

Tracing the computer and phone activity where these internet activities were carried out, the gardaí established that they occurred mainly at the defendant’s home but also at his workplace and in his local pub.

Mr Barnes said of O’Regan: “He is quite an isolated individual and does not leave his house much.”

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “There is no doubt these are very serious offences. One would be grave. A number of them can only be described as very serious — using the internet for the purpose of exploitation of young people for sexual purposes.

“Aggravating factors are the nature of the contact, photos of genitalia, and threats that people would be outed. The length of time this was going on is a significant aggravating factor.”

Judge Ó Donnabháin said the suspension of half of the six-year sentence was designed to protect society and also to protect the defendant.

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