Cork restaurateur receives two years in prison for trying to sexually exploit a child

A Cork restaurateur was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday for attempting to sexually exploit a child in a case in which an undercover Canadian police officer repeatedly told the defendant that “she was a 13-year-old girl,” to which he responded : ” I do not care about the age”.

Judge Helen Boyle imposed a three-year jail sentence on Turkish national Mehmet Umit Pala of Maiville Terrace, Evergreen Road, Turner’s Cross, Cork, with the final year suspended.

Mitigating factors taken into consideration at Cork Circuit Criminal Court included the fact that he had operated businesses in Cork and had been in Ireland since 1996. He co-operated with the garda investigation and psychological services.

“His guilty plea indicates that he has accepted responsibility.” However, the judge considered that the seriousness of the crime warranted a prison sentence.

The defendant closed two restaurants, one Turkish and one Italian, which he operated on North Main Street, Cork, since this case came to light.

Detective Garda Craig Peterson said the accused used Snapchat to talk in a sexualised manner to a primary school aged boy, displaying an image which suggested he, the accused, was a 19-year-old man.

This communication alerted law enforcement authorities and an undercover Canadian officer who presented herself online as a 13-year-old girl and told the defendant three times that she was 13 years old. This did not matter to him, said Mehmet Umit Pala, and offered to show him a photo of his penis, Det. Garda Peterson testified.

When he was arrested and questioned, he admitted to talking to between 50 and 60 children through social media.

When asked about the images of child sexual abuse on his phone, he told gardaĆ­ he did not know how they got there. When asked if he had looked for it, he replied that he did not remember.

Lead defense attorney Ray Boland said the 62-year-old has had to close his two restaurants on North Main Street since these matters arose. The lead lawyer said that fortunately in this case it was a police officer, not a child, that the accused communicated with.

Boland said the defendant was in a long-term relationship with his partner and she continued to support him. She said there was a period when the accused was in denial, but she had since admitted to the offences.

“He behaved like this without considering the harm he was causing,” Boland said on behalf of the defendant. A Turkish interpreter was present to translate the proceedings for the accused.

The first charge states that he knowingly had in his possession child pornography, namely an image file found stored on a Samsung Galaxy J3 mobile device on October 17, 2020. He pleaded guilty to this.

He also pleaded guilty to one count that between April 28 and May 2, 2020, he attempted to sexually exploit a child using information and communications technologies.