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28 Jan 2022

Sentence of man who sexually exploited teenager with Down's Syndrome will not be increased

Sentence of man who sexually exploited teenager with Down's Syndrome will not be increased

Sentence of man who sexually exploited teenager with Down's Syndrome will not be increased

The State has failed in a bid to increase the seven-month term given to a man who asked a 14-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome to send him pictures of her breasts. 

Michael O'Regan (43), of Assumption Place, Clonakilty, Co Cork, had pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation offence contrary to section 3 of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act at a hearing at Clonmel Circuit Criminal Court. 

At a sentence hearing in February this year, Judge Eoin Garavan described the offending as “utterly exploitative” and "reprehensible". 

On Monday, the Court of Appeal was told that that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was appealing the seven-month term imposed by the judge on the grounds that it was unduly lenient. 

David Humphries BL, for the DPP, told the three-judge court that O’Regan had 35 previous convictions for similar offences when he appeared before Judge Garavan. 

Mr Humphries explained the main reason for appeal was because the sentence imposed did not contain any deterrent. 

“This type of offence, especially when the victim is as vulnerable as this victim, can be hard to detect and deterrent must be at the forefront of the sentencing judge’s mind,” he said. 

Not only had the headline sentence of two years been low, counsel added, but the reduction to seven months had been excessive. 

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, sitting with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said the exploitation of a young, vulnerable girl in this manner had been a “squalid offence”. 

But she also noted that the offence took place around the same time of the other offences for which O’Regan was subsequently jailed over, and said the court was refusing the DPP’s application to have the term increased. 

Suzanne Gorey BL, for the respondent, said her client accepted his guilt and had made full admissions. 

Counsel said the fact seven-month consecutive sentence was to run consecutively to terms imposed for previous offences had acted as a deterrent. 

Previous evidence 

The court in Clonmel was told O’Regan asked his victim to send him a topless photo of herself after they met online. 

O’Regan had 35 previous convictions for sexual exploitation of children that all occurred between March 2016 and September 2017. 

The girl's father called to a garda station on April 25, 2017, and reported that his 14-year-old daughter had been in contact with a number of men through an online site and had received and sent photos. 

At Cork Circuit Criminal Court in 2019, O’Regan was handed down a six-year sentence, with half of it suspended, for the sexual exploitation of young girls he met on the internet. 

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