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'Predatory behaviour' No jail for man who used fake Facebook accounts of Love/Hate stars to exploit girl (14)

He made her believe she would get to meet the famous actors and perhaps get a role in the series when he persuaded and then pressured her into sending him a number of naked images of herself, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

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Mark Byrne (30) with an Address at Kilmore Close Coolock, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to one count of child exploitation between October 2013 and June 2014

Mark Byrne (30) with an Address at Kilmore Close Coolock, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to one count of child exploitation between October 2013 and June 2014

Mark Byrne (30) with an Address at Kilmore Close Coolock, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to one count of child exploitation between October 2013 and June 2014

A man who used fake Facebook accounts in the name of Love/Hate actors to induce a 14-year-old to share naked images of herself has been given a suspended four year sentence.

Mark Byrne (30) targeted an impressionable young teen with his “predatory behaviour” over a period of eight months when he pretended to be Killian Scott and Robert Sheehan six years ago, Judge Pauline Codd said today.

He made her believe she would get to meet the famous actors and perhaps get a role in the series when he persuaded and then pressured her into sending him a number of naked images of herself, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

Byrne then threatened to post naked images of her to her Facebook account if she didn't send him more photos.

Judge Codd noted that if Facebook had a proper identification verification in place, then the offence could have been prevented in the first place. “This offence was facilitated partly because of the fact that the accused could set up a fake identity without it being verified by Facebook,” she said.

Byrne, of Kilmore Close, Coolock, Dublin, pleaded guilty to one count of child exploitation between October 2013 and June 2014. He was then aged between 22 and 23.

The court heard that the victim, who at the time was obsessed with the Love/Hate TV show, got a private Facebook message from a fake account using Scott's name. She believed she was communicating with the actor.

Using the fake Scott account, Byrne asked the girl to send him a “full body” image so that he could see what size she was and get her a part on the TV show. She sent a fully clothed image and they continued to chat every night.

The court heard Byrne then told her he was feeling depressed and was going to kill himself unless she sent him a naked photo of herself, which she did.

Byrne went on to pester the girl for more naked images. He threatened to share the explicit images he already had on Facebook and tag her name in them if she didn't send him more photos.

The victim began doubting the account was the real Killian Scott and she became afraid because her location could be seen from the images she had already sent. She continued to send him naked images because she was afraid he would carry out his threats to share her images.

At one point, the girl blocked the Scott account but began receiving similar messages from a Robert Sheehan account. Byrne also sent the child images of an erect penis and told her it was his.

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From L-R actors Peter Coonan as Fran, Robert Sheehan as Darren, Tom Vaughan Lawlor as Nidge and Killian Scott as Tommy in a publicity shot from Love/Hate Series 3

From L-R actors Peter Coonan as Fran, Robert Sheehan as Darren, Tom Vaughan Lawlor as Nidge and Killian Scott as Tommy in a publicity shot from Love/Hate Series 3

From L-R actors Peter Coonan as Fran, Robert Sheehan as Darren, Tom Vaughan Lawlor as Nidge and Killian Scott as Tommy in a publicity shot from Love/Hate Series 3

The offending came to light when the child's mother noticed sexually explicit private messages on her Facebook account and contacted gardaí. They took over the account and a warrant was issued for Byrne's arrest.

When arrested, Byrne admitted carrying out the offence. He told gardaí he never intended to share the girl's images online and he said the penis image he sent her was a generic internet image and not his penis.

Judge Codd said this case “highlights the pernicious uses to which social media can be put”. She said that if Facebook and other social media platforms would not take steps to prevent it happening, then “the courts must deter those who seek to exploit that”.

In relation to Byrne, she noted that he was a “depressed and isolated young man” at the time of the offence. The court heard Byrne had dropped out of school and spent most of his time alone in his bedroom. He was unemployed at the time.

There was significant evidence before the court that although he was in his early twenties at the tine, he displayed a “lack of maturity”.

He has no previous convictions and has not come before the courts since. He returned to education and is now a qualified chef.

He has engaged with a sex offender programme and gained some insight into his offending, although more work is required, the judge noted.

She handed down a four year sentence but suspended it on a number of conditions, including that Byrne engage in a sex offenders treatment programme and remain under the supervision of the Probation Service for four years.

“I think that will meet society requirements in terms of public safety going forward,” the judge said. She said that had Byrne been an older man at the time of the offence, she would have imposed a custodial sentence.

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