Former teacher tells of 'shame' at defilement of teenage girl

Judge tells accused offences were "huge breach of trust" and warns of inevitability of custodial term

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

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liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Judge Keenan Johnston

Judge Keenan Johnston

A former secondary school teacher who engaged in multiple acts of defilement and sexual exploitation of a schoolgirl has spoken of his "shame and embarrassment", a court heard today.

The 35-year-old was speaking at Longford Circuit Criminal Court earlier today after pleading guilty to 11 counts of defilement, sexual activity and exploitation of a 13-year-old girl between October 1 2013 and 31 December 2013.

The court heard how the defendant befriended the the young girl by sending her a friend request via a bogus Facebook page in August 2013.

Over the course of the next number of months, messages were exchanged between the pair met for the first time in a Dunnes Stores car park in Longford town.

It was revealed the man told the victim he was 18 at the time when, in fact he was 28 years of age and working as a schoolteacher in Dublin.

The court heard the man routinely picked the young girl up in his car before going on to meet up at the schoolgirl's home in Longford town.

It was during one of those encounters in October 2013 when the pair were watching a movie on the girl's laptop that the man went on to have sexual intercourse with the victim.

The court heard a number of other similar encounters, including in the defendants car, also occurred after the accused admitted he had lied about his age by claiming he was 21 and not 18.

In December 2013, the man messaged the young girl on Facebook, informing her he wanted to break up, claiming he was busy at work and wasn't seeing her enough.

In May 2015, the young girl received a message again via Facebook from the defendant with the question: "Do you believe in unicorns?"

The alarm was eventually raised in 2016 when the man told the young girl he could not go on a weekend away with her owing to a leg injury he had received while playing football.

The young girl told her mum and step dad who became suspicious after the latter told of how his boss' son had fallen foul of an almost identical injury.

A search on Facebook revealed the defendant was in fact the son of his employer.

The man was arrested in February 2018 after gardai arrested him at a secondary school in Dublin.

The PE and geography teacher initially denied any involvement in the alleged incidents and later charged.

He would later go on to plead guilty to the charged in May of this year.

At today's sentencing hearing, the girl who is now aged 18 told of how the episode had left her full of self blame and insecurities.

The accused, who wore a blue suit and sobbed through much of the hearing, read out a letter of apology to his victim.

"I never thought I would be capable of such things," he said.

"I cannot begin to imagine the pain and hurt I have caused you. I lied to you, I lied to gardai and I was also lying to myself.

"I was scared and ashamed for what I done."

The court heard the accused had come to court with €10,000 by way of compensation and had been accepted onto the Phoenix programme, an initiative run by sex abuse survivor  charity One in Four.

Judge Keenan Johnston adjourned final sentencing until January 2021 but warned the man that despite his previous unblemished record, the loss of his job and the looming birth of his second child, that a spell behind bars was inevitable.

"For someone in his position, the element of grooming is very concerning," he said.

"This is a very serious case and involved a huge breach of trust."

The case is due to return on January 12 2021.