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Man jailed for online sexual exploitation and defilement of girl (13) has prison sentence cut on appeal

Ruaidhrí Giblin

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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Man jailed for online sexual exploitation and defilement of girl (13) has prison sentence cut on appeal

A man jailed for online sexual exploitation and defilement of a 13-year-old girl, when he was aged 19, has had six-and-a-half year prison sentence cut on appeal. 

Darragh Meehan (26), of Dargle Wood, Knocklyon, 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”.

He successfully appealed the severity of his sentence on Monday with the Court of Appeal holding that the headline sentence was out of kilter with similar offences. 

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.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Ms Justice Marie Baker said the sentencing judge over assessed the gravity of the offence and, as a result, erred in fixing a headline sentence of nine years.

That positioned the offence in the high range when, in the Court of Appeals view, the correct approach ought to have seen it placed in the mid-range.

Ms Justice Baker said the correct headline sentence was seven and a half years. This was reduced to five years imprisonment to take account of Meehan's previous good character and the fact he had not come to adverse Garda attention in the long period of time it took the case to come to court.

Ms Justice Baker, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, suspended the final year on condition Meehan submitted to the supervision of the Probation Service for one year post release.

She said the young girl had given an articulate victim impact statement and had shown a remarkable degree of insight into her own vulnerability and the way in which Meehan used that to his advantage, to "gain what he wanted”.

Ms Justice Baker said the reduction in the headline sentence did not, in any sense, reflect on the gravity of the impact on her.

Sentencing performed a number of functions in society, including deterrence, the need to protect the vulnerable and, a factor which weighed heavily in this case, the need to facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders to encourage their reintegration into society, Ms Justice Baker said.