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Girl (13) arranged sex weekend, court told

Police in the Republic of Ireland rushed through an emergency care order for a troubled 13-year-old girl when they discovered she had arranged a weekend of sex away from home.

Details of the weekend plan emerged yesterday at the sentencing hearing of a 25-year-old chef who had pleaded guilty to a single count of sexually assaulting the 13-year-old in the back of his car in October 2003 when he was 18 years old.

Judge Raymond Fullam sentenced father-of-two Ronan Lowther, of Mountcharles, Co Donegal, to 18 months' imprisonment but suspended it for five years.

He is the fifth man before the courts and the fourth to be sentenced in relation to sexual assault crimes against the girl in south Co Donegal when she was 12 and 13 years old.

The judge said the young girl had been "abandoned to her own devices, leading a life of promiscuity before going into care until the age of 18".

Giving evidence at Donegal Circuit Court, investigating garda Liam Feeney revealed how he had sought an emergency care order for the girl, weeks after the investigation into the troubling case had begun in November 2003.

"Our investigations gave us reason to believe that she was going to be involved in sexual activity on the weekend immediately following December 12," he said.

"She had been away a previous weekend and she had made arrangements to go away again. It was an absolute emergency."

Central to the garda investigation was a diary and lists of names of 60 men, over 20 of whom the 13-year-old claimed to have slept with. The court was told that Lowther's name appeared on several lists.

The 13-year-old had sex with Lowther on the night she met him outside a nightclub in a Donegal town on August 4, 2003, the court heard.

The following October he drove her to a lay-by where he again had sex with her in the back of his car.

Lowther was interviewed five times by gardai and admitted knowing the 13-year-old but denied having sex with her.

He switched to a guilty plea after a jury had been sworn in and a trial was about to commence last month.

Taking the stand briefly yesterday, he apologised to the victim, now aged 20, who wept quietly in the back of the court.

"I am deeply sorry for all the hurt and distress I have caused in her life. I accept I caused that hurt and distress," he said.

He added that he also accepted that he took advantage of the 13-year-old's situation.

Counsel for Lowther pointed out that his client was just one of a large number of men, a small number of whom have been brought before the courts.

Ordering that Lowther be placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for five years, the judge praised the work of Garda Feeney, whom he described as "a real pillar in this saga".

He noted that the age gap in this case was five years. "That is not an excuse but a youth of 18 is different from sexually experienced individuals before the court in this saga," he said.

He added that the convictions must be "some comfort" to the young woman as her evidence was "recognised as the truth".

Source Irish Independent

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