A former youth leader convicted of child sexual offences has avoided prison with a judge repeating his “displeasure and distaste” at the decision of the Public Prosecution Service not to send this and similar cases to crown court.
Caoimhin Morgan (28) from Dixon Court, Coalisland who has since been dismissed from his role, denied sexual communication with a child and making an indecent photograph on dates between February 1 and June 25, last year but was convicted after a contest at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court.
Matters came to light when police received a referral from Social Services who in turn had been alerted by a youth club leader that Morgan had been engaging in sexual communication and exchanging of images with the victim through Snapchat.
Police spoke to the victim who confirmed this and while initially facial images were sent back and forth Morgan asked for more.
The victim, who was 15 at the time, reported receiving messages from Morgan on Snapchat which she unlocked in the presence of police.
These showed communication over a period of time and while it was initially instigated by the victim she was unable to explain why she did this.
Morgan was arrested and following caution across three police interviews gave “largely no comment responses.”
During the contest it was noted she and Morgan had “different perspectives on the nature of the conversations but they were clearly sexual, and by extensions for gratification.”
The victim told the court Morgan had expressed concerns around losing his job as a result of the communications due to her age, and this was supported by retrieved Instagram messages.
Morgan however insisted he believed the victim was 16 or 17 as she had a part-time job and was friendly with two males whom he believed were older, but they were in fact much younger.
He said there was little conversation between him and the victim in the early stages but accepted becoming concerned that, “People would find out he had shared explicit images and did not want them out there.”
He further accepted screenshotting the victim’s breasts but claimed this was accidental and alerted her of this.
The victim however told the court she only became aware of the image when her device alerted her that she had been screenshotted.
Following conviction the case was adjourned for the preparation of pre-sentence reports returning today (Friday) where District Judge Michael Ranaghan repeated his previous concerns of the case not being sent to crown court.
A prosecuting lawyer referred to a Victim Impact Statement which, “Very aptly shows the stark reminder of the impact such an offence has on a young people on a day-to-day basis.”
Judge Ranaghan said the victim, “Has nothing to feel guilty about. I hope the impact this has obviously had will lessen over time. No child should be subjected to that behaviour.”
Turning to Morgan the judge said, “My focus is on the effect your actions had on that child. On numerous occasions I have voiced my displeasure – in fact, I go further, distaste – at matters such as this not being sent to crown court.”
Taking into account the previously clear record Judge Ranaghan imposed a Combination Order comprising 18 months of Probation supervision with 100 hours Community Service.
He warned Morgan, “If you breach either aspect of that it will be immediate imprisonment of potentially 10 months.”
A Sexual Offences Prevention Order was imposed as well as Sex Offender registration, both for five years.
Concluding, Judge Ranaghan said, “I can’t emphasise enough the distaste I have for these offences not being sent to crown court.”