A man found in possession of around 4,000 images and videos of child sexual abuse has avoided a jail sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Paul O’Carroll (45) pleaded guilty to possessing 3,910 images and 376 movie files of child sexual abuse at his home on Delaford Avenue, Knocklyon, Dublin 16 on August 4th, 2017.
At hearing on Wednesday, Judge Martin Nolan sentenced O’Carroll to three years but suspended it in full, noting that there was very good mitigation in the case.
Among other mitigating factors, Judge Nolan said O’Carroll was unlikely to reoffend and had good insight into his wrongdoing.
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Garda Patrick Tarrant told Oisín Clarke BL, prosecuting, that the issue came to light when gardaí were contacted by the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in the US.
The American agency had concerns about a Facebook account with links to child abuse material.
Gardaí investigated the IP address attached to the Facebook account and traced it to O’Carroll’s address, then sought a warrant to search his house.
Gda Tarrant said O’Carroll was co-operative when gardaí arrived and handed over a considerable amount of electronic devices.
The court heard that delays due to the pandemic and other technical delays with the investigation, the files were not analysed until three years later in March 2020.
Gda Tarrant said the files comprised of images of children aged between three and 15 years old.
O’Carroll has no previous convictions.
Gda Tarrant agreed with Garret Baker SC, defending, that O’Carroll had co-operated fully and had handed over his email addresses and passwords which was very helpful to the investigation.
The garda further agreed that O’Carroll had been contrite and had said he had turned to child abuse imagery to find “solace and gratification” but that this was always immediately followed “a sense of self-loathing”.
Gda Tarrant confirmed that O’Carroll had never come to garda attention before or since these offences and that he had been proactive in dealing with his case.
O’Carroll told gardaí that he was remorseful and wanted to get help and rebuild his life, the court heard.
Mr Baker asked the court to take into account a forensic psychologist’s report describing O’Carroll as a psychologically vulnerable man who felt “a profound sense of shame, low self-esteem and self-loathing” regarding his offending.
The psychological report also said that O’Carroll had long-standing mental health issues including depression and anxiety that had gone untreated, describing him as someone who experienced “sadness, apathy, hopelessness and a bleak world view on a regular basis”.
The court heard O’Carroll was “prone to emotional collapse” yet had dealt with all assessments in an open, honest and respectful manner and recognised that he had a problem requiring medical intervention.
Counsel said O’Carroll’s parents, who were present in court, wrote letters to the court.
A probation report put O’Carroll as at low risk of reoffending.
Judge Nolan said the material was serious and explicit, but O’Carroll’s offending was described as at the lower end of the scale. O’Carroll has a good work history, the court heard.