Clonmel Courthouse where the case was heard at a sitting of Clonmel Circuit Court
A 42 year-old Cork man received a seven months' prison term at Clonmel Circuit Court today (Wednesday, February 17) for sexually exploiting a 14-year-old girl with special needs by getting her to send him a topless photo of herself.
Judge Eoin Garavan imposed the sentence on Michael O'Regan of 22 Assumption Place, Clonakilty, who pleaded guilty at the court to one count of sexually exploiting a child on a date unknown between December 25, 2016 and April 25, 2017.
The court heard that Mr O'Regan has 35 previous convictions for sexual exploitation of 35 children. This offence came to light when the victim's father contacted gardaí on April 25, 2017 after becoming aware that she had been in contact with a number of men through an online site. The girl, who has Down syndrome, was 14-years-old at the time.
The girl's mobile phone and laptop were handed over to gardaí. The garda investigation found the mobile phone number used by the man most regularly in contact with the girl belonged to Michael O'Regan from 22 Assumption Place, Clonakilty, county Cork.
The victim was interviewed by a child specialist garda interviewer and she told the interviewer she sent a topless photo of herself after the defendant had requested it.
Gardaí obtained a search warrant and searched Mr O'Regan's home. Mr O'Regan handed over his mobile phone and his laptop was seized. He acknowledged he had been in contact with the girl and had asked her to send the topless photo of herself to him.
Mr O'Regan was interviewed at Clonakilty Garda Station and confirmed that everything alleged by the victim was correct.
His 35 previous convictions for sexual exploitation of children related offences that occurred between March 2016 and September 2017.
Defence barrister Suzanne Gorey pointed out that Mr O'Regan co-operated with the Garda investigation in the fullest sense of the word.
She described how Mr O'Regan went online in 2015 in the hope of communicating with a woman of his own age and finding a partner. However, it ultimately led him down a “bad path” and led to him developing a sexual interest in girls of a younger age.
Her client had told the Probation Service he didn't want to have these feelings and he believed he needed help to control these deviant sexual interests.
Ms Gorey presented a letter of apology from Mr O'Regan to the court in which he expressed remorse and acknowledged what he had done was wrong. He said he was sorry for what he had done and hoped in time people would forgive him.
She outlined that Mr O'Regan had mental health difficulties and had twice attempted suicide.
As he imposed sentence, Judge Garavan described Mr O'Regan's behaviour as “utterly exploitative” and “cruel” towards this girl.
He said you couldn't find a more vulnerable victim of this offence than the injured party. Down syndrome children brought great joy to their families and the innocence of this girl had been robbed and exploited by the defendant.
He considered the appropriate sentence to be a one year jail term but he reduced it to a seven months jail sentence taking into account the sentence of six years imprisonment with the final four years suspended imposed on Mr O'Regan in Cork Circuit Court for similar offences in July 2019 and the fact the judge believed there was hope for rehabilitating the defendant.
He directed the seven months jail term run consecutive to the jail sentence imposed at Cork Circuit Court and that Mr O'Regan be placed under the Probation Service for three years after his release from prison and complete the Safer Lives programme for sex offenders.