Man jailed for nine years for grooming 14-year-old for sex

Father of four (42) also convicted for child pornography offences

Cathal Donnelly outside Roscommon District Court. Photograph: Hany Marzouk

Cathal Donnelly outside Roscommon District Court. Photograph: Hany Marzouk

Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 19:07

A 42-year-old father of four was jailed for nine years today for grooming a 14-year-old girl for sex.

Cathal Donnelly with addresses at Carane, Ballintubber, Co Roscommon, and Lanesboro, Co Longford, was given a number of lesser, concurrent sentences for the possession, production and distribution of child pornography.

At his sentencing hearing in Roscommon Circuit Court yesterday, Judge Tony Hunt said the offences were “as serious as it gets”.

Donnelly had pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation of a minor on dates between August 1st and September 29th in 2010 at a previous court hearing.

He had also admitted possession of child pornography at Tullyrane, Ballymahon Road, Lanesboro, Co Longford, on September 29th, 2010; to the distribution of child pornography on April 30th, 2010; and to the production of child pornography on a date between May and August 2010. A further 12 charges before the court were taken into consideration.

The court had heard that Donnelly came to the attention of gardaí in 2010 after he was detected by Scottish police authorities in a sting operation in Edinburgh. He had had been identified by an undercover policewoman while making contact with teenage girls on internet chat rooms.

Gardaí initially discovered the child pornography on a desktop computer and two hard drives at his addresses in counties Roscommon and Longford. Children aged as young as six were depicted engaging in sexual activity.

Their inquiries then led to the discovery that Donnelly had also groomed a teenage girl for sexual acts over a period of two months in 2010.

The court heard that Donnelly groomed the 14-year-old for sexual acts over an eight-week period in 2010 during which he had sent her more than 3,600 text messages.

He had come into contact with her by using Facebook. After a short time Donnelly began “sexting” the girl and grooming her to carry out sexual acts.

More than 8,000 text messages had been sent between Donnelly and the girl over a two-month period, the court heard.

The teenage girl told gardaí that Donnelly had initially asked if she had “done it before”, which she took to mean sex. He had asked if she would give him oral sex and, because she felt intimidated, she had replied “yes”.

When he told her he was 39 she had felt sick. It had been her first sexual experience.

Donnelly, who previously worked as an IT technician, made full admissions when arrested by gardaí. The girl declined to make a victim impact statement.

In court yesterday Judge Hunt noted that the accused man had demonstrated his very serious intention of promoting his interest in child sexual activity.

“He groomed her and engaged in an advanced form of sexual contact with a young girl. This was not spontaneous, it was planned,” he said.

An aggravating feature of the case was the fact that photos were taken of Donnelly and the young girl in the course of their “activities” and were later distributed.

“He was doing this to gratify himself and storing up the images for future gratification and for that of others of like mind,” Judge Hunt added.

Noting that the victim had been “prematurely sexualized”, he said the appropriate sentence for sexually exploiting her was nine years, with varying lesser sentences on the child pornography charges.

He also directed that he attend at the Probation Service for post-release supervision for four years. He further directed that he stay away from accessing the internet and refrain from befriending, associating with or otherwise engaging with persons under 18.