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Suspended sentence Sexual predator's jail time sentence an 'injustice' says victim

Anthony Smith (44) was sentenced to five years in prison with three years suspended

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Anthony Smith (44) pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation and abuse of Aoife Lynch in 2014 earlier this month. Stock image

Anthony Smith (44) pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation and abuse of Aoife Lynch in 2014 earlier this month. Stock image

Anthony Smith (44) pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation and abuse of Aoife Lynch in 2014 earlier this month. Stock image

A woman who was sexually groomed as a teenager has said that it is an “injustice” that her abuser is only facing two years in prison.

Anthony Smith (44) pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation and abuse of Aoife Lynch in 2014 earlier this month. Aoife was just 14 years old at the time.

The father of nine was sentenced to five years in prison with three years suspended.

Speaking on Liveline today, Ms. Lynch spoke of the horrific abuse she endured as a teenager and the effects it has had on her seven years later.

She recalled how Anthony, who was close to Aoife’s family, groomed her by maintaining constant contact on social media.

She said: “I was being bullied in school at the time and I was sort of vulnerable. I would have been spending a lot of time in his sister’s house and he would have been there quite frequently.

“We kind of just got talking and I didn’t really think anything of it. I just thought of him as family.

“Contact became more frequent over social media; he would text me a lot and things like that and I think he used that to isolate me from my friends and my family. It kind of escalated from there,” she continued.

She told listeners that he mostly used Snapchat to contact her and warned of how the platform’s ‘disappearing messages’ feature can be used to predators’ advantages.

“It’s such a huge gateway for predators because as soon as the message is opened, it’s deleted straight away so there’s no way of going back and seeing what was said and what happened.

She added: “He made sure that if we ever had contact on Messenger on Facebook or over normal text that if anything was said on his behalf out of the ordinary, he’d ask me to delete it. So, he kind of knew how to keep it under wraps and how to get away with it.”

The man confessed that he had feelings for Aoife just after she turned 15 while he was in his late 30s but told her they had to keep their secret between the two of them.

She explained: “He texted me the weekend after my 15th birthday and said that he was in love with me and that completely threw me. I didn’t know what to think of it. I didn’t know what he meant by that because he was family.

“I was so isolated, and I felt really alone and I didn’t want to affect anyone else with what was going on so I just tried to cover it up and deal with it myself. I didn’t want to be the reason he got in trouble.”

Aoife finally went to the Gardaí for help at the age of 18 and said that while it was difficult to address her abuser in court, she felt it was the right thing to do for herself and other victims.

Aoife bravely shared: “I felt like for myself I needed to stand up in court and read my victim impact statement out myself. It happens to so many people on a daily basis and most of these cases don’t get reported because they feel like they won’t be believed.

“You shouldn’t be silenced by your abuser. You should have support around you, whether that’s a professional or somebody that you trust.

She revealed that the abuse she endured as a teenager has had a “huge effect” on her and called Anthony’s reduced sentence an “injustice.”

“It has a huge effect on me. It’s never gone away and it’s always in the back of my mind. I feel like all my childhood and teenage years were taken by him and replaced with constant mental, physical, and emotional effects.

“The last seven years of my life have been completely taken over by him and in return he’s spending only two years in jail. I don’t think that’s fair. It’s an injustice,” she added.

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