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Man who had sex with teen he met on Facebook has portion of sentence suspended

Man who had sex with teen he met on Facebook has portion of sentence suspended

A man who had sex with a 16-year-old girl he met on Facebook has had the unserved portion of a new 12-month sentence suspended following a successful appeal.

The 29-year-old father-of-two, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of defilement of a child at two locations in Dublin on January 22 and February 4, 2013.

He was sentenced to three years imprisonment with the final 12 months suspended by Judge Desmond Hogan on March 27 2015.

The man successfully appealed his sentence today.

The three-judge Court of Appeal imposed a new sentence on him of 12 months imprisonment and suspended the unserved portion for two years.

Giving the court's judgment, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the girl was 16 years and nine months old at the time while the man was 27.

They met on facebook, the judge said. After an exchange of text messages they ultimately met in person on January 22 and went to the man's father's home where they engaged in sexual intercourse.

They met again on February 4 when they went to his home and engaged in intercourse, the judge said.

She told her parents about what had happened shortly thereafter. A statement was made to gardaí and the man was arrested, Mr Justice Mahon said.

Although he had initially denied knowing her age, he later conceded that he had been told her age in a text message, the judge said.

The man had no previous convictions for anything remotely associated with unlawful sexual activity, Mr Justice Mahon said.

His barrister, Bernard Condon SC, submitted that his client's sentence was disproportionate having regard to the mitigating factors and the absence of any aggravating factors.

Mr Justice Mahon said a successful prosecution may not have been a foregone conclusion. The gardaí had lost contact with the girl weeks before the date of sentencing.

She had been three months shy of her 17th birthday at the time. He himself was relatively young and there were no threats, violence, pregnancy or STDs transmitted in the offence, the judge said.

No aggravating factors were identified by the sentencing judg and it was clear that he approached sentencing on the basis that a non-custodial sentence was a real option.

Mr Justice Mahon said the judge had been asked to delay sentencing until a comprehensive probation report had been completed, but he proceeded to sentence.

Mr Justice Mahon said the court was satisfied that there was an error in principle in circumstances where the judge had remarked that he had clearly contemplated a non-custodial sentence as being appropriate.

In the Court of Appeal's view, Mr Justice Mahon said a custodial sentence of the length directed by the judge was not warranted if indeed a custodial sentence was appropriate at all.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, allowed the appeal and set aside the man's sentence.

The Court of Appeal imposed a new sentence of 12 months imprisonment and suspended the unserved portion of that sentence for a period of two years.

He was required to enter into his own bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of two years.

When asked if he undertook to be so bound, he said “I do, yeah” and he thanked the court.

The man had been granted a priority hearing date for his appeal in early October.