Man (23) given three-year suspended sentence after defiling girl (15)

Court heard that the accused lived in the same area as the girl and were part of the same group

A Dublin man who defiled a 15-year-old girl after they became friends has been given a three-year suspended sentence.

The 23-year-old man pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to defilement at his home in June 2019.

He was 18-years-old at the time and the teenagers were known to each other as they had hung around together in the same group. The man had initially denied the charge but pleaded guilty on the morning of his trial.

The now 19-year-old girl took the stand during a sentencing hearing on Tuesday to read her victim impact statement.

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She spoke of how, since the incident, she has tried to take her own life, describing it as “a life that I actively didn’t want to live”. She spoke of episodes of self-harm and feelings of uncleanliness, worthlessness, anger and fear.

The court heard that the accused lived in the same area as the girl, and they often used to go on walks together.

She said after the defilement, she often saw him around the area and this caused her great distress. She spoke of “a steep decline” in her school attendance and becoming a recluse in the aftermath of the incident.

“I didn’t know how to be a human being. I was depressed, anxious. I struggled heavily with self-image and developed an eating disorder. My daily life was interrupted by post-traumatic stress disorder,” the woman said, adding she still gets nightmares about the accused.

The woman spoke of how she has been on medication for years. “I feel like I have missed out on a lot of my youth and childhood. My parents will never be the same,” she said.

She said she does not have a normal relationship with alcohol and has had difficulties holding down a job. She spoke of how the criminal process meant that she has had to take time off school, college and work to deal with aspects of the case leading up to the trial.

The woman finished her victim impact statement by expressing how she found the delivery of the statement “profoundly difficult”.

Judge Martin Nolan said on Wednesday it was a “serious offence” and a “terrible and huge misjudgement” but that the accused man did not deserve a custodial sentence, by reason of his mitigation and his young age at the time.

“People of that age are well capable of doing very stupid things,” said the judge, adding that it was a “close-run thing” that he had not handed down a custodial sentence.

Judge Nolan noted the victim has had a very difficult time.

He said that for the accused, being on the sex offenders’ register was a sentence in itself, and that the conviction that will follow him will also be a punishment.

A local detective said the teenager’s mother made a complaint to the gardaí in December 2019 after she disclosed that she had sex with the accused.

The teenager was interviewed by specialist gardaí the following October during which she said that she had been in a friend’s house in June 2019 along with the accused and during that time, he had touched her vagina. She said two days later they had sex in his house.

She said she and the accused had been in the same friend group and they used to meet up regularly. She said it was well known within the group that she was 15-years-old.

The then teenager told gardaí that on the night she had sex with the accused she had been at the Pride Festival in Dublin city centre and she had been drinking vodka. She passed out in a fast-food restaurant before she went home and went to bed.

That same night, she got a call from the accused asking her to meet up for a walk. She went to sleep for a few hours before he called her again. She agreed to go for a walk and left her home, telling her father she was going to the shop.

She said they met up and went to his house. They were kissing before they had sex.

The girl told gardaí she felt uncomfortable afterwards. It was the first time she had sex. She was sick, had a shower and went to bed. She felt what had happened was wrong and felt terrible afterwards.

Senior counsel Fiona Murphy, defending, said her client was genuinely remorseful.

She said a probation report before the court highlights that he has “victim empathy” and had no intention of causing harm but “is fully accepting that he has caused harm”.

The report found he was at the “lower end of risk of reoffending” and that he has indicated that he is happy to engage with the Probation Service.

Ms Murphy said her client has the support of his family and that being placed on the sex offender’s register was “a significant punishment”.

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