A middle-aged man who attempted to sexually assault a 14-year-old girl was caught in a ‘sting’ operation carried out by a group of pedophile hunters.
Im Bowen (45) of Cottage View, Monkstown, Cork, appears before the Cork Circuit Criminal Court on a signed plea of guilty of two charges.
Judge Sarah Berkeley was told that Bowen had visited a minor three years earlier for the purpose of sexual abuse.
However, he was never in contact with a child online, but with a group described in court as a “vigilance pedophile hunter”.
“The situation was that Mr. Bowen was arrested by this group in Cork,” Jane Hyland B.L., for the state, told the court.
Ms Hyland said it was quite an unusual case in that regard.
Judge Berkeley heard the vigilante group — who was not named in court — mount Internet operations to “traps” people attempting to make inappropriate online contact with children.
Gardai was notified of Bowen’s actions by the vigilante group and a full investigation was launched.
Bowen was alleged that, between July 4 and July 26, 2019, he attempted to contact a child through communication technology with the aim of facilitating the sexual abuse of that child.
The second allegation was that, on July 26, 2019, at Costa Coffee in Bishopstown, Cork, he intentionally attempted to visit a child so that he could do something that would sexually abuse the child.
He appeared before the Cork District Court on a signed plea of guilty for both charges.
Judge Berkeley was informed that there was no actual victimization as no children were involved and that the ‘sting’ operation was performed entirely by adults.
Defense lawyer Sinead Behan BL said his client suffers from both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Bipolar Disorder.
However, she noted that she had no GP and no specialist medical, psychological or psychiatric reports before the court.
Judge Berkeley said that this is a very serious matter.
“I think there really should be a forensic psychological report. It’s a complicated [case] And the penalties involved are very severe.”
Ms Behan said her client had lost her full-time job as a result of her arrest, subsequent allegations and publicity in court appearance.
His marriage also ended due to the incident.
Ms Behan said she has also made several attempts at self-harm.
Judge Berkeley was told that Bowen had cooperated fully with the Guard in the investigation of the case.
Ms Hyland confirmed in court that Bowen had no previous convictions in Ireland.
He returned to Ireland in 2010 after living in the UK and inquiries with British police indicated that he had no previous convictions in that jurisdiction.
Bowen started online activity as their marriage began to fall apart.
The court heard that he had committed sexual activity online but that children were not involved.
As a result of his bipolar disorder, his depressive disorder now convinces him that “he is not able to face the day”.
At a high level related to his illness, he is able to function on a daily basis, but may suffer from bouts of bizarre behavior.
Judge Berkeley was told that a safe living program could prove very beneficial to the defendant.
Although it is typically run under the supervision of the Probation and Welfare Service (PWS), Bowen was willing to consider participation on a voluntary basis.
“a [forensic psychologist] The report can only help,” the judge said.
He directed that psychological and mental reports should be prepared.
The full facts profiling of the case along with the sentencing was adjourned till November 10, when the full medical and psychiatric reports would be available.
Bowen was remanded to re-appear at Cork Circuit Criminal Court the following November on continuing bail conditions.
Judge Berkeley provided free legal aid.