Computer-generated pornography did not harm children, judge finds


A CONVICTED child abuser who viewed computer-generated child pornography has received a suspended jail sentence after a judge said the images did not harm or exploit children.

Traces of illustrated images of children involved in sexually explicit activity were found on computer hard drives belonging to John O’Neill (54).

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard yesterday that the 25 images did not depict real children but were very graphic and designed to look like real children.

O’Neill had found the images on the internet and told gardaí he viewed them to be sexually gratified without involving children.

Judge Martin Nolan said that if the material had been typical child pornography using real children, or if O’Neill had paid for it, he would be imposing a “reasonably severe” sentence.

He said in this case no actual children were involved and that O’Neill had not paid for the images. He said these facts put the case at the lower end of seriousness, adding: “This material, no matter how odious, did not harm or exploit children.”

O’Neill, Moyne Road, Ranelagh, Dublin, pleaded guilty to possession of 25 images of child pornography at his flat between October 24th, 2008, and January 10th, 2009.

He had previously received a 10-year prison term for counts of rape, indecent assault and sexual assault of minors.

This sentence was reviewed seven years later and O’Neill was released on probation for five years.

Judge Nolan noted that there were no other offences, apart from the one before the court, since his release.

Noting O’Neill’s guilty plea and admissions to gardaí, Judge Nolan suspended a sentence of two years on condition that he be of good behaviour for that period.

The judge said the delay in bringing a prosecution had had a “traumatic affect” on O’Neill. The court previously heard that on one occasion, gardaí had to take O’Neill to hospital after finding he had made a suicide attempt at his home.

Det Garda Mark O’Neill told Úna Ní Raifeartaigh SC, prosecuting, that the images found on O’Neill’s computer showed graphic depictions of sexual activity with speech bubbles that left no doubt the images were of children.

Remy Farrell SC, defending, said O’Neill’s paedophilia was “a lifelong issue”.

He argued that these offences were at the lowest end of the spectrum because O’Neill had only viewed the images without saving them.

Mr Farrell said that without his client’s guilty plea, there could have been an “interesting legal issue” regarding whether simply looking at such images would amount to possession.