September 23, 2022

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Gardaí are liaising with British police as part of an investigation in the Republic into an Irishman convicted of child sexual offences after being caught in a sting by so-called paedophile hunters.

Declan Power, who lived in Co Louth and worked in ancillary services for the HSE, was jailed in England on Monday. A court found he flew to Britain in July with the intention of abducting and having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

In reply to queries, Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, said it was “aware of a conviction against an Irish national in the UK this week”. The Garda was “in contact with the UK authorities” but added it had “no further comment at this time”.

The Irish Times understands detectives in Ireland are set to examine Power’s social media activity, and other communications, which formed the basis of the UK prosecution. They want to establish if he was in contact with, or possibly abusing, any children in Ireland or other children outside the jurisdiction.

In reply to queries, the HSE said it “is aware of this case”. However, under HSE policies it could not comment “regarding named individuals, whether personnel, patients or otherwise, for reasons related to data protection and confidentiality”. It added all staff that required working with children under vulnerable people were subjected to Garda vetting.

Power (58) was caught by members of the “Secrets ‘n’ Lies Confronted’ organisation, a so-call paedophile hunter group, who set up a fake Facebook profile of a schoolgirl called Charlotte which was contacted by Power. The Irishman sent sexual messages and arranged to meet the girl at her purported home in north Devon, where he planned to have sex with her at her home while her mother was out at work.

There was also evidence that he planned to abduct the girl and bring her back to Ireland for the purposes of setting up home with her and continuing to sexual abuse her. He had built a large fence around his home, which involved a six-foot fence being built on top of a smaller one, in a bid to keep the girl’s presence at the house in Dromiskin, Co Louth a secret.

Power, of Commons Road, Dromiskin, admitted attempted sexual communications with a child and attempting to meet a child after grooming and was jailed for two years and four months by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter crown court. He had been arrested in the UK in July after traveling there and being confronted by members of the ‘Secrets n Lies Confronted’ group.

Power flew from Dublin to Bristol and took trains to Barnstaple but was met by the group’s members instead of the girl and was arrested shortly afterwards. He was carrying condoms in his luggage and return tickets for himself and the girl to return to Ireland two days later.

Chat logs showed he had told her she would have to disguise herself by dying her hair blonde and said she would have to remain in his home to avoid detection. Power continued sending messages in which he set out his abduction plan and organised to meet the girl at Barnstaple Station at 8.30pm on July 14th.

Judge Johnson told Power that the “date of birth of the purported girl” was clear online as he contacted what he believed was her profile.

“In fact, it was not a 13-year-old girl but a man acting as a decoy while investigating paedophiles such as yourself,” Judge Johnson added. “Your plan was to sleep with Charlotte and to have penetrative sexual activity with her and to return with her to Ireland, where you were going to set up home together.

“It is said that you lacked guile but it was clear you planned to abduct her back to Éire. I take into account the length of time the intention was there and the planning involved. This case is so serious there must be immediate imprisonment.”

Adrian Chaplin, defending, said Power was a hard-working man with a job in the health sector who has never been in trouble before. He said he arranged to meet the girl at a time when he was very isolated.

“Before this month of madness, he was of good character,” Mr Chaplin said of his client Power. “He had not had a significant personal relationship for 13 years. He is utterly ashamed. It seems he acted out a fantasy about a sort of domestic situation which he sought to achieve.”

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