A man in his 40s who went to meet an underage girl for the purposes of sexual exploitation was caught in a sting operation organised by "vigilante paedophile hunters", Cork Circuit Criminal Court has heard.
Tim Bowen, of Cottage View, Monkstown, Co Cork, was sent forward for sentencing from Cork District Court having signed guilty pleas to two charges.
The first charge is that between July 4th-26th, 2019, Bowen attempted to communicate with a child by way of communication technology for the purpose of facilitating the sexual exploitation of that child.
The second charge is that at Costa Coffee café in Bishopstown in Cork city on July 26th, 2019, he attempted to intentionally meet the child for the purpose of doing something that constituted sexual exploitation of the child, namely sexual assault.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard the 45 year old had gone to meet what he thought was a 14-year-old girl in Cork three years ago.
However, Judge Sarah Berkeley was told the defendant was never in contact online with an underage person, but rather with a group of "vigilante paedophile hunters".
Sgt Gary Duggan, who investigated the offence, was in court to outline the facts in the case which involved Bowen "attempting to meet an underage person for sexual exploitation".
Jane Hyland Bl, for the State, said it was an unusual case involving a vigilante group who were not named in court.
"The situation that came about was that Mr Bowen was apprehended in Cork by this group."
The court heard the group organise operations to ensnare individuals who are trying to make inappropriate contact with children via social media. The vigilante group notified gardaí of Bowen's actions and a full probe was launched.
Defence counsel, Sinead Behan Bl, said her client had both ADHD and bipolar disorder but was without a GP.
Ms Behan added Bowen had lost his job and marriage as a result of the publicity surrounding the case and had made a number of attempts at self harm.
He is now in a new relationship and is a carer to this person, she said.
Ms Behan added her client had gone online and engaged in sexual activity with a number of people that he met there. However, none of these people were minors.
Ms Behan told the court Bowen was not in contact with any children and had complied fully with the conditions of his bail since he was first charged.
Judge Berkeley said it was a very serious offence, adding that a forensic psychologist report should be prepared.
"It is a complex (case) and the penalties involved are very severe," the judge said.
She directed that psychological and psychiatric reports be prepared and Bowen was remanded on bail until his next court appearance on November 10th.
Full medical and psychiatric reports will be prepared in the interim and free legal aid was granted in the case.
Bowen is required to sign on twice a week at Togher Garda station. He must also notify gardaí of any change of address and be contactable on a mobile phone by gardaí by mobile phone on a 24/7 basis.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help. In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.