A CLONAKILTY man sexually exploited 24 girls in Ireland, the UK and the USA through Skype, WhatsApp and other online media and today he was given a six-year sentence, with half of it suspended.
Michael O’Regan, of 22 Assumption Place, Clonakilty, commenced his sentence of three years today at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
He will be under the direction of the probation service for another three years post-release and will be required to undertake the Safer Lives programme if he has not already completed it in jail.
Ronan Barnes, defence barrister, described the accused as a man with an isolated lifestyle who had carried out acts of self-harm since the offences came to light.
O’Regan, aged 40, got some of the victims to send him naked pictures of themselves and then threatened that he would post these images on the internet if they did not agree to further actions.
All of the contacts were online and at no stage did he meet any of the victims in person.
The defence barrister said O’Regan never intended to meet any of them.
Detective Garda James Keane investigated the case that extended to two books of evidence covering a period from February 2015 to October 2017.
Det Garda Keane said the accused man used social media such as WhatsApp and Skype to contact the young girls online. O’Regan set up a false profile whereby he identified himself as a male under the age of 18 and engaged in sexualised conversations with girls.
“He offered inducements for sexualised phone calls. On some occasions he threatened to post nude pictures of them online to further engage in sexual exploitation.
“He sent pictures of his genitalia to young girls… In one case a sexual act was carried out on Skype video. From February 2015 to October 2017 there were 24 charges [of sexual exploitation] relating to 24 injured parties. Their age profile was 12 to 16 years. The majority of them are Irish-based. Some are in the US and the UK. Some of the victims have been identified.”
Mr Barnes said the plea of guilty was of significance as it may have been difficult to prove the ages of all the parties in the charges with whom O’Regan had engaged. Detective Garda Keane agreed.
Tracing the computer and phone activity where these internet activities were carried out the gardaí established that they occurred mainly at the defendant’s home but also at his workplace and in his local pub.
Mr Barnes said of O’Regan: “He is quite an isolated individual and does not leave his house much.”
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “There is no doubt these are very serious offences. One would be grave. A number of them can only be described as very serious — using the internet for the purpose of exploitation of young people for sexual purposes.
“Aggravating factors are the nature of the contact, photos of genitalia and threats that people would be outed. The length of time this was going on is a significant aggravating factor.”
The judge said the co-operation with the investigation, the pleas of guilty and absence of previous convictions were mitigating factors.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said the suspension of half of the six-year sentence was designed to protect society and also to protect the defendant.
The charges were brought under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998.