Court formally strikes off teacher who groomed and sexually exploited 13-year-old

Cian Cooney (36) from Ballymahon, Longford is serving a five-year jail sentence

The 30-year sanction is the most severe provided for under section 44 of the Teaching Council Act

The 30-year sanction is the most severe provided for under section 44 of the Teaching Council Act

 

The President of the High Court has formally confirmed a recommendation that a former secondary school teacher who groomed and sexually exploited a 13-year-old girl be struck off the teaching register for 30 years.

The sanction was formally approved by Ms Justice Mary Irvine on Tuesday upon application by the Teaching Council.

Cian Cooney (36), of Ballymahon, Co Longford, is currently serving a five-year jail sentence for the 2013 offences. He previously worked as a PE and geography teacher at a south Dublin secondary school.

Ms Justice Irvine said she is acutely aware that the 30-year sanction is the most severe provided for under section 44 of the Teaching Council Act, but she could not see how any lesser sanction would be appropriate. Neither would a less severe response serve as an effective deterrent to any teacher considering engaging in “heinous conduct” of the type carried out by Cooney, she said.

Cooney’s wrongdoing “could hardly have been more egregious”, she went on. He started to groom a barely adolescent child and subjected her to extreme sexual abuse over a considerable period of time, she noted.

The panel viewed Cooney’s wrongdoing to be at the “very highest end of the spectrum of wrongdoing”, the judge said.

Ms Justice Irvine said it is clear the protection of children and the public were considered to be of “paramount importance” when the disciplinary committee panel decided on the sanction. In its report, the panel stressed that it is “vital” that the reprimand should help to maintain public trust and confidence in teachers and the teaching profession, she said.

Cooney was sentenced to six years and six months in prison, with the final 18 months suspended, at Longford Circuit Court in February. He had pleaded guilty to charges of sexual exploitation and having sex with a child under the age of 15 on a number of occasions.

The court heard that Cooney groomed the girl by sending her a friend request under an alias on Facebook during the summer of 2013. When they later met, he told her he was 18 but was in fact 28 at the time.

The meetings stopped at the end of 2013 but he resumed contact again in 2015. His real identity was eventually revealed by the girl and her parents using social media.