Child porn accused given suspended sentence after Garda delay

Judge says four-year wait for analysis of images in the case is of ‘enormous concern’

A judge has said that a ‘considerable delay’ in analysis of child sex-abuse images was a factor in suspending a sentence. File photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A judge has said that a ‘considerable delay’ in analysis of child sex-abuse images was a factor in suspending a sentence. File photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

A judge has said that a “considerable delay” in analysis of child sex-abuse images because of a lack of resources in a Garda specialist unit was of “enormous concern” and a factor in suspending a sentence.

Eamon O’Connell (45) was sentenced at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday to three years in jail for possession of child pornography at this home in Riverwalk, Oakpark, Tralee, Co Kerry, on June 1st, 2010. However, Judge Thomas O’Donnell suspended this sentence.

O’Connell pleaded guilty in March 2015 to a single count of possession of child pornography under Section 6(1) of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998.

Among the thousands of images found in his possession were 159 “category-one” films involving the most degrading abuse of children, the court was told.

This category featured children engaged in or witnessing acts of a sexually-explicit nature.

The case had taken seven years and this was largely due to the backlog at the Computer Crime Investigation Unit in Harcourt Street, the judge noted at the adjourned sentencing hearing on Tuesday.

Det Brian Mackey outlined how, following confidential information as well as an in-depth Garda investigation that led to O’Connell’s home, gardaí seized computers, hard drives and floppy discs at the premises. These items were then sent to the Harcourt Street unit.

“Due to the pressure of work, the analysis report did not issue until four years later,” the judge noted at Tuesday’s hearing.

The case was then further adjourned for the preparation of psychiatric and other reports, so it was seven years before the case was finalised, the judge said.

Computer files

Some 307 files containing in excess of 60,000 child pornography images were found on the computer .

Some 41 of the files were category one, containing the most serious kind of child pornography, 134 of the files were category two and the remainder were category four, involving cartoons.

Children were exploited and “subjected to degrading abuse” in the files, the judge said.

Senior defence counsel Mark Nicholas said “the opprobrium” surrounding the offence had driven his client into becoming a recluse and unemployable .

The judge said he noted how O’Connell was addicted to the act of “downloading” itself, and that psychological reports suggested he was unlikely to reoffend.

The judge said there had been “considerable delay” in the case.

“This is of enormous concern to the court. If the analysis had been carried out, this would have been disposed of a long time ago,” he said.

“It’s a resource issue - and there is no criticism of the gardaí,”the judge said.

The judge said he felt the appropriate sentence was three years, but having factored in the mitigating factors “and the delay”, he was suspending the sentence, on O’Connell’s own bond of €100.

O’Connell will be on the sex-offenders register for a period of five years, dating from his March 2015 guilty plea.