27 May 2022

Man jailed for online sexual exploitation and defilement of girl (13) brings six-and-a-half year sentence appeal

Man jailed for online sexual exploitation and defilement of girl (13) brings six-and-a-half year sentence appeal

A man jailed for online sexual exploitation and defilement of a 13-year-old girl, when he was aged 19, has moved to appeal the severity of his six-and-a-half year sentence

Darragh Meehan (26) of Dargle Wood, Knocklyon, Dublin, was 19-years-old when he met the 13-year-old girl and they later began communicating online via Skype, Facebook and texting on a regular basis. The girl told Meehan she was 13-years-old.

He exposed himself and masturbated during Skype sessions and invited the girl to masturbate or penetrate herself. During a meeting in person, Meehan asked the girl to masturbate him and performed sexual acts on her.

The girl's mother contacted gardaí after finding concerning messages on her laptop.

Meehan pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to one count of defilement and three counts of sexual exploitation of the girl on dates between December 2011 and May 2012. He had no previous convictions.

Sentencing him to six-and-a-half years imprisonment in March, 2018, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said Meehan had groomed the victim whom he described as “a child in the full sense”.

“She was induced to submit because of the manipulation and grooming that had taken place,” the judge said. He added that the victim had been having difficulties at the time dealing with the psychological and physical changes that come with being an adolescent.

Mr Justice McCarthy described the victim impact report as “impressive” and said that it demonstrated “maturity” on her part. He said she had made obvious efforts to come to terms with what had happened, “I hope she will continue to do so”.

Meehan moved to appeal the severity of his sentence on Thursday in the Court of Appeal, where judgment was reserved. 

His barrister, Seán Gillane SC, submitted that the headline sentence of nine years was “simply” too high and “out of kilter” 

Mr Gillane said he could fine no other case of defilement with a nine-year headline sentence.

Due to the time it took to take the case to court, Meehan had an “established post-offence” record of not having come to any adverse attention. It was noted that Meehan was unlikely to come to adverse attention again in the future. 

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mary Rose Gearty SC, said the combination of exploitation and defilement meant Meehan’s sentence was within the range. 

Ms Gearty said there was “premeditated contact with the child” which involved “intrusive” contact over the internet.

Given the age of the child, the series of events that culminated in the “penetrative event” and the affects of the offences on her, Ms Gearty said the nine-year headline sentence was appropriate. 

Mr Justice John Edwards, who sat with Ms Justice Marie Baker and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the court would reserve its judgment. 

Garda Sharon Duncan told the Central Criminal Court that Meehan and the girl met in December 2011. Shortly afterwards they began communicating via FaceBook, Skype and texting on a very regular basis.

The Skype communication took the form of being able to see each other without audio and texting to speak to each other. He began asking her to take her clothes off. 

In late December 2011, Meehan exposed his penis and invited the girl to digitally penetrate herself.

On a number of further occasions Meehan exposed his penis and masturbated himself on camera during the Skype sessions. He also invited her in some Skype sessions to masturbate herself and insert an object into her vagina.

On a date in March 2012, the pair made an arrangement to meet in a local park. They began to kiss and Meehan asked the girl to masturbate him. There was further kissing afterwards before Meehan put his hand into her clothes and digitally penetrated her, which she found quite sore. She asked him to stop and he did.

They kissed again and he asked her for oral sex. She initially declined but Meehan persisted and she placed her mouth on his penis before immediately stopping. They then went home and had no further contact for some time.

Later in 2012, the girl's mother noticed concerning messages on her laptop and the gardaí were alerted. Meehan was identified as a suspect and interviewed.

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