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Member of the Jehovah's Witness church admits sexual exploitation of young girl

Court Reporter

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Court Reporter

Member of the Jehovah's Witness church admits sexual exploitation of 13-year-old girl

A member of the Jehovah's Witness church has admitted the sexual exploitation of a 13 year old girl.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, was aged 29 when he met the girl through their mutual association with a local Jehovah's Witness congregation.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that over a period of time in 2016 he and the girl exchanged messages on Viber, including sexually explicit images of the child.

The offending came to light when the girl's older sister spotted the messages and semi-naked images on a shared computer device and alerted their mother.

The court heard that the man and the girl began talking initially about organising team sports' activities in connection with the church. The man told gardai that the girl told him she was feeling bad and was thinking of harming herself.

He told gardai he was concerned and wanted to “calm her down”. He later sent her topless images of himself and a naked photo of himself. In turn she sent him images of her topless and of her bum.

During some text exchanges the pair referred to each other as “darling” and spoke about being in love, being boyfriend and girlfriend and about getting engaged, Garda Padraic Rowan told the court.

In one exchange the man asked her if she would perform oral sex on him if he asked and she said she would. He told her he meant this for after “the wedding”.

The man, now aged 34 and with an address in Dublin, pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child on dates in late 2016. He also admitted possession of sexually explicit images of the child, contrary to the Child Pornography and Trafficking Act, 1998.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, told the court that his client was “sexually naive in the extreme” and that this partly resulted from his involvement with an “extremely conservation religion in terms of sexual mores”.

He said that anything other than kissing or hugging in advance of getting married was not permitted and could lead to excommunication. He said that after his arrest and interview his client went to “church elders” and self reported his actions and was excommunicated for a period.

Garda Rowan agreed with Mr Bowman submission that this was an isolated incident and there were no ongoing inquiries in relation to his behaviour or his actions in the church.

He said that the Probation Service have assessed him as being at a moderate risk of reoffending. He said his client wishes to apologise to the victim and her family.

Judge Karen O'Connor said this was a very serious matter and that the age disparity was very significant. She adjourned the case to February 18 next for sentencing.