A man who was caught with images of child sexual abuse as gardaí were investigating him for sexually assaulting a child in a clothing store has been handed a fully suspended prison sentence.
Gardaí searched the home of Stephen Gregan (42) in June 2017 after receiving a complaint he had sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl while she was out shopping with friends.
Some 64 images and 57 movie files of child sex abuse material were discovered after two hard drives and computer were seized and analysed.
The court heard that the images and movies depicted children aged between three and ten years old engaged in sexual activity or explicit pictures of children aged up to 15-years-old.
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Gregan of Main Street, Tullamore, Co Offaly, previously of Grove Park, Rathmines, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of child pornography at his Dublin home on June 13th, 2017.
The court heard that in October 2019 Gregan received a nine-month suspended sentence from Judge Martin Nolan after he pleaded guilty to sexual assault at Penneys, Dundrum Town Centre, on June 10th, 2017.
Imposing sentence on Monday, Judge Melanie Greally said if this charge had been dealt with at the same time as the sexual assault count, it would have resulted in a custodial sentence.
However, Judge Greally said the court had to consider the length of time since the material was seized and if there would be “undue harshness in imposing a custodial sentence” at this point.
She said the steps taken by Gregan to rehabilitate himself, the lack of subsequent negative garda attention and the time lapsed since the offence was detected “swing the balance against the immediate imposition of a custodial sentence”.
Judge Greally handed Gregan an 18-month prison sentence, which she suspended for two years on strict conditions, including that he place himself under the supervision of the Probation Service.
Gardaí were investigating the allegation of sexual assault when they searched Gregan’s Rathmines home and found the child abuse material. At an earlier sentence hearing, Gerardine Small SC, defending, said her client was in a dysfunctional relationship at the time and was suffering from depression.
Ms Small said her client had been attending counselling since the incident and had been placed on the sex offenders register. He continues to attend for treatment and is fully engaged in the therapeutic process.
Counsel said Gregan’s brother had written a letter for the court outlined “what kind of state” his brother was in at the time.
“He is fully aware that this is not a victimless crime. He has done what he can in terms of rehabilitation, has not come to garda attention since and is a very changed man from the man he was in June 2017,” Ms Small said.
She asked Judge Greally to accept the evidence that there was “no question of distributing or sharing” the images and that the images had been deleted.
A letter from Gregan was handed into the court, whose wife was present.
Judge Greally noted that the DPP directed a summary indictment for this charge, but the District Court had “quite rightly” refused jurisdiction based on the “severity” of the material. Noting the quantity of the material seized, the judge said the aggravating factors include the nature of the material and that it includes children as young as three in some instances.
Judge Greally also noted the stigma and social isolation that follows a conviction of this type and that “publicity is almost inevitable” for this type of offence. She noted that this offence occurred six years ago and Grehan had had a number of “adverse circumstances” to confront.
Judge Greally said she took into consideration the mitigating factors including the remorse expressed by Grehan, his early guilty plea and the steps taken towards rehabilitation.
During the earlier hearing in October 2019 Gda Jennifer Quinn told Philip Rahn BL, prosecuting, that on June 10th, 2017 an 11-year-old girl was in the Penneys shop with her friends when Gregan pushed up against her and squeezed her bum.
Gda Quinn said the accused tried to make out that it was an accident, but the child noticed that the aisle was wide and he did not have to squeeze past her. She told her friend that the man had touched her, that she did not like it and she started crying.
In interview with gardaí, Gregan initially claimed the touching had been accidental, but after breaking down and getting emotional he admitted it had been intentional. He claimed he was not attracted to children and just wanted help.
“Obviously I am a normal nice guy with a chemical imbalance,” Gregan told gardaí. He has no previous convictions.
Judge Martin Nolan suspended a nine month sentence and ordered that he pay a sum of €5,000 over to the victim. He said this payment was a punishment and he said that the court would dispose of it if the victim does not want it.