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Paedophile babysat victim (7) and used her to produce child pornography

The jury took just three hours to find him guilty on all charges and he was remanded in custody
The jury took just three hours to find him guilty on all charges and he was remanded in custody

A paedophile who had unrestricted access to a seven-year-old girl after befriending her family, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for using her to produce child pornography and for sexually exploiting and assaulting her over a three-year period.

The now 56-year-old man, who cannot be identified in order to protect the victim's identity, had denied 17 sample charges involving the sexual exploitation and sexual assault of the girl, who is now aged 16, on dates between 2007 and 2009 at various addresses in Co Galway, during a six-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court in May.

The jury took just three hours to find him guilty on all charges and he was remanded in custody to yesterday's court for sentence.

The trial in May heard evidence from the victim that the accused regularly stuck his thumb into her mouth, making her gag, every time she met from when she was seven years old.

The man had been friends with her mother's then partner and he had often stayed with the family, offering to babysit for them when they went out drinking. 

The family moved address on a number of occasions and the accused would seek them out and come stay with them. Her mother and partner often left him in charge, sometimes for a few days.

Passing sentence yesterday, Judge Rory McCabe said the man had been entrusted with the care of the young girl and on multiple occasions had abused that trust.

The girl told the jury in May that he made her do sexual acts while taking the pictures and if she refused to comply he would perform the sexual act on her himself and hurt her.

She said he would stand at the end of the pool table taking pictures on his phone and sometimes he would move around the table instructing her which pose he wanted. She could hear the ‘click’ of the camera and see the flash as it took the photos.

She said she was around nine and a half years old when the last sexual assault took place. She recalled taking a shower one day when the man came into the bathroom and sexually assaulted her. Her mother came into the bathroom and told him to leave. The mother had to return a second time and order him out of the bathroom.

The girl's mother told the jury she had not reported this last incident to Gardai because she was afraid social workers would take her other children from her.

Social workers called on the family shortly after the children visited their grandmother in 2009, in another part on the country.

In her victim impact statement, which the girl read to the court yesterday, she said she was only seven years old when the accused first came into her house and her life.

He started abusing her a week later.

"I always remember feeling alone, sad, helpless and very scared. I still feel like this.

"I try not to remember but can't stop sometimes and I hate it. 

"He made me feel that I was alone, he made me feel he would hurt my siblings too.

"I still don't understand why he did this. Growing up trying to be normal is hard.

"I do things that are not good for me sometimes as I feel nothing matters.

"Maybe some day it will stop. 

"I can't explain how bad I feel inside.

"I would like to know why he made me talk to everyone about it in court. This was hurting me again. I just don't understand at all," the girl said.

Judge McCabe imposed a seven year sentence on each of the 17 charges to run concurrently. The accused was then placed on the Sex Offender's Register for life.

He was immediately handcuffed and led away by prison officers.

Ann Healy, Irish Independent