A 22-year-old Shannon man who first made direct contact with his 12-year-old female sex assault victim through Snapchat has been jailed for two years.
At Ennis Circuit Court today, Judge Brian O’Callaghan told Lee Devanney, formerly of Ros an Oir, Ballycasey, Shannon that he “had preyed on a particularly young and vulnerable victim”.
Mr Devanney had pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual assault against the female between October 24, 2014, and April 2015.
Mr Devanney was aged 17 at the time of the offences and in sentencing, Judge O’Callaghan imposed a three-and-a-half-year prison term and suspended the final 18 months.
Mr Devanney’s identity has not been disclosed before now, but the complainant, now aged 17, asked that Mr Devanney be named.
Judge O’Callaghan said that Mr Devanney could be named and also placed him on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.
The sentencing hearing to take place today was the second to take place concerning the offences.
The first hearing took place in February and Judge Gerald Keys had a written judgement prepared to hand down in April and May but Mr Devanney was unable to come to court as he was in Covid-19 lockdown in France.
The case came before Judge O’Callaghan as Judge Keys retired in May and the court was told today that Mr Devanney is now engaged to the woman he was living with in France.
In her victim impact statement, the complainant described Mr Devanney as a "vile creature".
Judge O’Callaghan noted that it was stated during the sentencing hearing that Mr Devanney used no force when sexually assaulting the 12-year-old girl.
The judge said: “But each and every one of these acts of sexual assault were acts of violence.
Judge O’Callaghan stated that in two of the seven counts of sexual assault, “it was planned, premeditated and systematic in its approach. There was nothing off-the-cuff about this offending”.
Judge O’Callaghan said that Mr Devanney had abused the girl for his own sexual gratification.
Judge O’Callaghan said: “You knew that she was a vulnerable person, not only because of her age but because of other factors and yet still you continued with the offending.
Judge O’Callaghan stated that Mr Devanney’s conduct had caused “profound hurt and damage” to the victim.
The judge added that Mr Devanney's young age and immaturity at the time of offending “played some role and doesn’t excuse your conduct and may explain why you behaved in such a manner”.
Judge O’Callaghan quoted a line from WB Yeats about ‘When I was young and foolish then…”
Judge O’Callaghan said: “That can’t absolve you from responsibility from causing damage to a young lady. There comes a time when no matter what age we are that we have to pay for the damage caused to someone else.”
The judge said that the culpability level was below the mid-range due to Mr Devanney’s age and noted that a report on Mr Devanney found the risk of re-offending to be very low.
Judge O’Callaghan said that Mr Devanney had pleaded guilty to the offences and has no previous convictions and has not offended since.
However, he said that it would be wholly and completely wrong not to impose a prison term.
In evidence, Det. Sgt Kevin O’Hagan said that after the anonymous Snapchat game of ‘Shift or Pass’ the two made direct contact and exchanges photos.
The two met in person shortly after and the majority of the counts of sexual assault took place at Mr Devanney's family home.
The age difference between the two is four-and-a-half years.
The complainant attended court today where an audio recording of her victim impact statement she delivered in February was played to the court.
In the statement, the girl, stated: “I have never despised anyone in my life except this person.”
“I am writing this today with pure hatred and sorrow in my heart.
“He has taken so much from me and I will never be able to live a normal life because of that vile creature."