Jailed for nine years for grooming teenage girl

A father of four with an address in Lanesboro, was last week handed a nine-year prison term for grooming a 14-year-old girl for sex.

A father of four with an address in Lanesboro, was last week handed a nine-year prison term for grooming a 14-year-old girl for sex.

Cathal Donnelly, with addresses at Lanesboro, Co Longford and Carane, Ballintubber, contacted the teenager through social networking site Facebook before sexually exploiting her over a period of eight weeks.

An IT technician by trade, Donnelly was was given a number of lesser, concurrent sentences for the possession, production and distribution of child pornography.

In handing down the sentence at Roscommon Circuit Court last Thursday Judge Tony Hunt described the offences “as serious as it gets”.

The court was told Donnelly had attracted Garda attention in 2010 following his detection by Scottish Police during a sting operation in Edinburgh.

At the time, he had been identified by an undercover policewoman attempting to make contact with teenage girls using internet chatrooms.

Gardaí initially discovered the child pornography on a desktop computer and two hard drives at his addresses in counties Roscommon and Longford.

Subsequent enquiries then led to the discovery that Donnelly had also groomed a teenage girl for sexual acts over a period of two months in 2010.

Over an eight-week period, the court heard how Donnelly groomed the 14-year-old for sexual acts in which time he sent his victim over 3,600 text messages.

In total, more than 8,000 text messages were exchanged between Donnelly and the girl over the two months.

The teenage girl told gardaí of Donnelly’s initial request, asking her if she had “done it before,” understanding the question to mean sex. He also asked if she would give him oral sex and, owing to feeling unduly intimidated, she replied “yes”.

When he informed the girl he was 39 she said she felt sick, stressing it had been her first sexual experience.

Donnelly had pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation of a minor on dates between August 1st and September 29th in 2010 at a previous court hearing.

He had also admitted possession of child pornography at Tullyrane, Ballymahon Road, Lanesboro, Co Longford, on September 29 2010; to the distribution of child pornography on April 30 2010; and to the production of child pornography on a date between May and August 2010. A further 12 charges before the court were taken into consideration.

Summing up the evidence placed before him last week, Judge Hunt said the entire episode had been carefully contrived.

“He groomed her and engaged in an advanced form of sexual contact with a young girl. This was not spontaneous, it was planned,” he said.

An aggravating feature of the case was the appearance of photos taken of Donnelly and the young girl in the course of the incidentswhich were later distributed.

“He was doing this to gratify himself and storing up the images for future gratification and for that of others of like mind,” added the judge.

Citing how the victim had been “prematurely sexualized”, he said nine years was the appropriate sentence for sexually exploiting her, with differing lesser sentences on the child pornography charges.