Sligo coffin maker groomed and abused 'vulnerable' teen and friend

The trial was stopped on the second day after the DPP accepted Hession’s guilty plea to two charges
The trial was stopped on the second day after the DPP accepted Hession’s guilty plea to two charges

A 35-year-old man who groomed a vulnerable 16-year-old girl in hospital and went on to sexually abuse her and her friend who has an intellectual disability has been jailed for a total of five years.

Both girls suffered from numerous other health difficulties, a court has heard.

Coffin-maker Keith Hession, 35, had pleaded not guilty at his trial at Sligo Circuit Court last October to a number of charges of defilement of children.

The trial was stopped on the second day after the DPP accepted Hession’s guilty plea to two charges. Full facts were given in the case.

At his sentencing hearing in Sligo yesterday both girls told of how they had gone on to self harm after the incidents across four counties in 2011.

Investigating garda Mary Tighe said Hession had never apologised for what he had done.

“It has been nearly five years and he hasn’t expressed any expressions of remorse to me or to the two girls,” said Garda Tighe.

Alice Fawcett, prosecuting, told His Honor Judge Francis Comerford that Hession first approached the 16-year-old victim at Sligo General Hospital where she was being treated at the paediatric unit.

Hession, from Cairns Hill, Sligo was warned by a hospital security officer to stay away from the girl because of her age.

However the accused, who was then aged 30, went on to contact her by mobile phone and he later collected her from a house in the North West and went on to commit various sex acts with her.

Data downloaded from his seized mobile phone showed he had exchanged explicit photographs with the girl.

During his first meeting with the 16-year-old in early 2011 he befriended the 15-year-old friend. He later went on to abuse her.

One of the victims was in court however victim impact statements were read out on their behalf by Garda Tighe.

The first girl told how she suffered “terrible nightmares” since the attack on her and needed medication “just to get through each day”.

The second victim spoke of how she was too scared to go out in public “locking myself in my room” and self-harming.

“When I do go out I always fear that something is going to happen to me,” she said.

Defence counsel Colm Smith said Hession was deeply remorseful for what he had done.

Ms Fawcett had asked the court to rule that Hession could be jailed for five years on the first offence and up to 10 years on the second offence.

She argued that the law should treat the second case as being subsequent.

However Judge Comerford said the relevant legislation was not intended to be interpreted that way.

Jailing Hession the judge said it was clear that Hession knew the ages of both girls when he committed the offences.

The judge said that was one of a number of aggravating factors in the case.

He said both girls were ‘particularly vulnerable’ having both suffered with severe medical conditions.

The 15-year-old, said the judge, also suffered from an intellectual disability.

Hession, he said, had no previous convictions and while he had entered a plea of guilty this was ‘late in the day’.

Hession was jailed for two and a half years, with the final year suspended for two years from his release from prison.

A consecutive two and a half years sentence was also imposed with the final 18 months of that suspended.

Ms Fawcett said the victim had particularly asked that Hession should be named.