February 2021

Man jailed for sexually exploiting girl with special needs

A 42-year-old man has been sentenced to seven months in prison for the sexual exploitation and abuse of a 14-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome.

Michael O’Regan of Assumption Place, Clonakilty, Co Cork, pleaded guilty at Clonmel Circuit Court to the offence and was sentenced today by Judge Eoin Garavan.

The court heard that he “met” the girl on an online site and asked her to send him a topless photo of herself.

Judge Garavan described the defendant’s behaviour as “utterly exploitative” and “reprehensible” and said the headline sentence should be one year.

Aggravating circumstances included the age of the girl and her vulnerability, while mitigating circumstances included the man’s guilty plea and his cooperation with the garda investigation into his crime.

The court heard that O’Regan had 35 previous convictions for various offences of sexual exploitation of children, which all occurred between March of 2016 and September of 2017.

He has mental health issues and has twice tried to take his own life.

Judge Garavan said the appropriate sentence is one of seven months, consecutive to a two-year sentence imposed on O’Regan in 2019 for similar offences.

The girl’s father called to a garda station on April 25, 2017, and reported that his 14-year-old daughter had been in contact with a number of men through an online site and had received and sent photos.

The girl’s father handed over her mobile phone and laptop.

The man most regularly in contact with the girl used a mobile phone and garda enquiries found that it belonged to O’Regan.

The victim was interviewed by a child specialist garda interviewer and told them she had sent a topless photo of herself after the defendant had requested it.

Gardaí obtained a search warrant and searched O’Regan’s home.

O’Regan handed over his mobile phone and acknowledged he had been in contact with the girl and had asked her to send a topless photo of herself to him.

He was interviewed at Clonakilty Garda Station and confirmed that everything alleged by the victim was correct.

The court heard the victim did not wish to make a victim impact statement to the court.

The court heard that O’Regan had gone online in 2015 in the hope of communicating with a woman of his own age, but had instead gone down “a bad path”, which resulted in him developing a sexual interest in girls of a young age.

Judge Garavan said that what happened must have been very upsetting for the victim and her family.

“This was a young child, of great innocence, with Down’s syndrome,” he said. “You couldn’t find a more vulnerable victim of this man’s offence.”

Children with Down’s syndrome bring “great joy” to their families, but that innocence had been robbed in some way in this case by what O’Regan did, he said.

“It was utterly exploitative and cruel.”