A Co Clare man who defiled a 15-year-old girl while the girl was on a sleepover in a tent in the back garden of a friend's house today walked free from court.
This follows Judge Gerald Keys applying the Probation Act to the man, aged 18 at the time of the two defilement offences in 2016, and opting not to impose any sentence.
Judge Keys told Ennis Circuit Court that to impose a jail term on the now 21-year-old "would be unfair, disproportionate and unwarranted".
Judge Keys said that the offences were at the lower end of the spectrum concerning such cases.
The judge said that he decided not to impose a jail term after analysing sentencing records on similar cases before the courts.
Judge Keys said that the Clare man already has “the severe sanction” of being placed on the Sex Offenders register as a result of the defilement offence.
The judge said that the man - a talented footballer - has already suffered the collateral damage from the case of not being able to pursue a soccer-related opportunity overseas due to his bail conditions.
Judge Keys said that the placement of the man on the Sex Offenders register and being under the supervision of the Probation Service for two years are sufficient sanctions to meet the case.
After entering a probation bond at the end of the hearing, the man said 'thank you, your honour' and left the court accompanied by his mother.
Judge Keys said that the aggravating factors in the case was the act of defilement itself and that the accused misrepresented his age and did not confirm the age of the girl before contemplating having consensual sex.
In the case, the then 18-year-old Co Clare male travelled to a rural Co Westmeath address on July 30, 2016 and had consensual unprotected sexual intercourse with the 15-year-old girl.
The 15-year old girl was on a sleepover celebrating the 15th birthday of a friend and the girl’s friend’s parents were in the house at the time and had no knowledge that the 18-year-old male and another male were on their property with the girls.
The accused pleaded guilty to the defilement of a child aged under 17 years old on July 30, 2016 at an address in Co Westmeath and an address in north Clare on December 27, 2016.
The second male involved is also facing sex offence charges relating to a friend of the 15-year-old girl and she is also from Co Westmeath.
The girls told their mothers that they were visiting a friend in Athlone. However, they had travelled to Co Clare where the 15-year-old had consensual sex with the then 18-year-old.
The two had met first through Facebook in November 2015 when the girl was aged 14 and the boy was 17.
According to Sgt Bobby Feery, one of the questions that the male asked the girl was if she was still a virgin.
In a statement to gardaí concerning the two having consensual sexual intercourse in the tent in July 2016, the girl said:
I agreed to have sex. He did not pin me down or make me feel that I was forced into it.
She stated: “I felt comfortable but wary that we had no protection. I couldn't quite believe that we were after having sex. It was my first time. I was a virgin before this.”
The girl told gardaí: “We had a cuddle after and we fell asleep.”
The male told the girl that he was 16, not 17 when they first made contact. She said: “If he had told the truth I would have kept my distance from him after that."
In a statement to gardaí, the male said: “I thought 16 was the legal age to have sex in Ireland.”
He said that where he is from in Co Clare “there is a two-year rule”.
Sgt Feery said that the girl is now in third level college and didn’t want to make a victim impact statement.
Counsel for the now 21-year-old male, Patrick Whyms BL, said the age between the two was two-and-a-half years and his client had just turned 18 a few weeks at the time of the first encounter in July 2016.
Legally, we have an adult and a child having sex but really we have two teenagers having consensual sexual activity as a result of contact on social media.
He added: “The girls went to a lot of trouble to get themselves down to Clare for the second event.”
Mr Whyms said that his client “greatly regrets” what occurred “and fully accepts that he was wrong”.
In terms of the level of the offending, Mr Whyms said that it is hard to construct a set of circumstances that could be lower.
He said: “My client had barely turned 18 engaging in consensual sex; admitted his involvement, has no previous convictions and has co-operated fully with gardaí. It is hard to imagine a lower end of any scale.”