A man who made sexually obscene video calls to someone he believed was a 14-year-old girl has been jailed for 18 months.

Patrick McInerney (40), of Main Street, Kilkishen, Co Clare, pleaded guilty to using information technology to facilitate the sexual exploitation of a child, sending indecent material and engaging in offensive conduct of a sexual nature on dates in February 2023 .

Det Garda Tracey O’Reilly said gardaí had been contacted by a group set up in the UK to detect people attempting to communicate with children by making decoys and waiting to see if the decoy was contacted.

Gardaí were told that McInerney had communicated with two people who he believed were 14-year-old girls. Two women had set up fake Facebook profiles and McInerney had contacted both girls online.

The group had arranged a meeting with McInerney and informed gardaí that the meeting was taking place.

Det Garda O’Reilly said McInerney was arrested that day and his phone was seized and analyzed.

She said it was clear from analysis of the phone that McInerney sent a friend request to one of the decoys, who clearly identified herself as a 14-year-old girl. He sent the friend request and then forwarded a photo of his erect penis.

When asked why he sent such a picture, the decoy responded by saying she was 11 years old. He had no further communication with this profile.

On February 27, 2023, he contacted the second decoy, who was also created as a profile of a 14-year-old girl on Facebook.

In this case, McInerney made three video calls, two of them via Facebook, during which he masturbated. He also requested and made another video call with the decoy via WhatsApp.

Det Garda O’Reilly confirmed the videos were recorded and handed over to gardaí. The face of the person who answered McInerney’s calls was not visible during the video.

In another incident, McInerney contacted a woman who was selling puppies online. After some communication with the woman, he sent her a photo of his erect penis. The next day he sent a similar picture and the woman blocked him.

The woman never reported it to gardaí and the crime was only discovered when gardaí carried out analysis on McInerney’s phone.

Det Garda O’Reilly agreed with Richard Brady, defending, that McInerney had made full admissions and provided gardaí with his passwords and any nicknames he used on his various social media accounts.

It was further accepted that he no longer uses Facebook or owns a smartphone.

Mr Brady said a report from the Probation Service showed a willingness to work with McInerney and outlined several recommended courses he could take.

Judge Martin Nolan said McInerney responded to decoys when it was clear they were very young. He described the communication between them as “obscene in nature” and noted that McInerney had behaved similarly with an adult woman.

He accepted there was good mitigation in the case and there was hope for rehabilitation for McInerney, but added: “He certainly deserves to go to prison.”

The judge sentenced him to three years in prison, with the remaining 18 months suspended under strict conditions.

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