A father-of-four who travelled to Belfast during lockdown with the intention of having sex with a 13-year-old girl was jailed yesterday.
Niall David Muldoon, from Francis Jordan Park in Jonesborough, was handed a three-year sentence after he admitted two charges dating back to last June.
Judge Donna McColgan QC told the 40-year-old that he will spend a year of his sentence in prison, followed by a two-year period on licence.
During this licence period, Muldoon was told he will participate in the Probation Board's Horizon programme to address his offending behaviour.
Belfast Crown Court heard that when he was arrested in the car park of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he thought he was meeting a 13-year-old, he told police: "I have kids of my own... I'm not a paedophile or anything like that."
Prior to his arrest on June 16, 2020, Muldoon embarked on highly sexualised online conversations with a person he believed was a 13-year-old girl called Abbie and which went on over four days.
During these online chats, Muldoon claimed he was 26, when at the time he was 39. He also sent images of a sexual nature to 'Abbie', requested she send him images in return and made an arrangement to meet her with the intention of having sex.
'Abbie' was fictitious, and when Muldoon travelled to the arranged meeting in the hospital car park, he was arrested and his mobile was seized.
When he was in the police car, Muldoon said he wasn't a paedophile and denied having any sexual interest in children.
He also claimed he had been in the car park randomly as he had been out for a drive.
Crown barrister David Russell said that after reading Muldoon's probation report, it appeared he had "remorse for himself... as opposed to remorse for any harm he could have caused".
Requesting that Muldoon be made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, Mr Russell said there will be social services intervention regarding Muldoon's own children.
Defence barrister Thomas O'Keefe revealed that prior to his arrest, Muldoon's marriage had broken down after his wife discovered he had been using online chat rooms for adult communication.
Mr O'Keefe said that when Muldoon's marriage ended, he moved in with his parents and began excessively using alcohol and cannabis. This, the barrister said, coupled with Muldoon's loss of employment and the pressures of the pandemic lockdown, contributed to him acting "entirely out of character" and communicating online with 'Abbie'.
Mr O'Keefe said that since his arrest last June, Muldoon has stopped misusing drink and drugs and has not reoffended.
The barrister concluded by telling Judge McColgan his client "has destroyed everything ... he has destroyed the entire family unit".
Muldoon pleaded guilty to attempted sexual communication with 'Abbie' between June 11 and 17 last year, and of attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming on June 16.
Judge McColgan handed Muldoon the three-year sentence, made him the subject of a 10-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) and placed him on the Sex Offenders Register for an indefinite period.