Convicted sex offender confronted by online safety group after expecting to meet girl (11)

Paul Lynch (56), who was jailed on Wednesday, sent pictures of his genitals and sought naked images while speaking online to ‘decoy’

A convicted sex offender believed he was meeting an 11-year-old girl but was instead confronted by an adult “decoy” and members of an online safety group who livestreamed the encounter.

Paul Lynch (56), who has another conviction for a similar offence, was jailed after Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard he had sent a picture of his genitals to the “decoy”. He had asked the would-be child for a naked photo but was told her phone was broken. The court heard that Lynch said he came to meet the girl to give her a phone.

Lynch, formerly of Beauvale Park, Artane, Dublin, and originally from Derry, pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child for the purposes of sexual exploitation in March 2018. He has a previous conviction from Northern Ireland in 2019 for sexual communication with a child for which he was imprisoned for four months. He also has a conviction for breaching a sex offences prevention order last year. He has seven older convictions relating to theft and fraud.

Passing sentence on Wednesday, Judge Orla Crowe described the offence as the “most serious kind”. She said it was clear to Lynch from his very first contact with the decoy that the child was 11 and yet he maintained contact for four weeks.

READ MORE

“He sent a photo of his genitals and he went to meet the child for the purpose of sexual exploitation,” Judge Crowe said.

She acknowledged Lynch’s co-operation with the Garda investigation, that he had shown genuine remorse and is willing to engage with appropriate therapies.

The judge said the case warranted a headline sentence of three years. She then imposed a sentence of two years and three months, having taken the mitigation into account.

At an earlier sentence hearing, Det Garda Pamela Dunne told Jane Murphy, prosecuting, that an adult member of a child protection awareness group set up a social media profile on a particular platform in the name of Cassie, purporting to be an 11-year-old girl and using a child’s photograph.

Lynch sent a friend request and followed up with a message. The decoy responded and said she was 11 years old. Lynch said she was too young for the app but continued to chat. They exchanged phone numbers and switched to WhatsApp.

The chat became sexually explicit and he sent on a photograph of his genitals. He asked for a video chat but Cassie said her mother was home and she could not chat. Lynch persistently asked Cassie to send a naked photograph but she told him her camera was broken. He asked her would she like a new phone.

Det Garda Dunne said Lynch made a plan to meet Cassie at a shopping centre so she could pick up the phone. Lynch texted details of his clothing and was met by the woman from the child protection awareness group and several other people posing as security guards.

The group started a livestream on Facebook before confronting Lynch. They said this was so the suspect could not lie about being attacked and so the encounter could not be edited.

Lynch initially said he was there to meet “no one” and when a member of the group called his phone he acknowledged he was there to meet Cassie. Gardaí were contacted and found Lynch surrounded by a large crowd. The group gave gardaí a printout of the messages that had been exchanged and the “decoy” phone they had used.

He agreed to go with gardaí and handed over his phones and passwords. Lynch said all he had been doing was giving the girl a phone. His home was searched and nothing of evidential interest was found. The court heard Lynch was arrested earlier this year in Northern Ireland and has been in custody since February.

Fiona Murphy SC, defending, said Lynch fully accepts his guilt and is disgusted and ashamed.

Read More

Recommended