Garda jailed for two years for possessing child abuse images and videos

Videos found on laptop by gardaí investigating assault

Joseph O’Connor (58) leaves Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. File photograph: Collins

Joseph O’Connor (58) leaves Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. File photograph: Collins

 

A garda convicted of possessing images and videos of children being subjected to sexual acts has been jailed for two years.

Joseph O’Connor (58) of west Dublin had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to five counts of possession of child pornography at his home on dates between July 30th and August 2nd, 2011.

In August 2011, gardaí­ investigating an allegation of assault made against O’Connor went to his home and seized evidence, including a laptop.

A subsequent analysis of the laptop found videos in the computer’s “recycle bin” depicting boys under the age of 10 being subjected to sexual acts. Two videos depicted boys under 17 being subjected to sexual acts with a male adult. There were also multiple copies of 16 different images of children sexually exposed or being subjected to sexual acts with other children.

After a trial last November a jury convicted him of four counts. The jury acquitted him of one count which dealt with 56 duplicates of two images found on his laptop.

Detective Superintendent Colm O’Malley told the court that O’Connor had been a garda for 25 years before his suspension from duty in 2012.

He agreed with Paul Carroll SC, defending, that O’Connor had a good work record and had not re-offended since these offences first came to light.

On Friday, Judge Elma Sheahan noted the severity of the images and quoted a previous judgement which states that even though these type of images are private, “they cannot be created without a child being violated somewhere, often unspeakably”.

Additional hardship

She said that O’Connor’s position as a garda meant his offending brought that organisation into disrepute and placed his culpability at a high level. Against that, she said, a term of imprisonment will bring an additional hardship because of this position.

A psychologist report handed into court placed O’Connor at a low risk of re-offending but Judge Sheahan said it was difficult for the court to take this into consideration where there was no acceptance of responsibility and no willingness to engage in therapy.

Diarmaid Collins BL, prosecuting, told the court O’Connor does not accept the jury verdict and continues to argue the prosecutions were brought in bad faith.

Judge Sheahan set a headline sentence of three and a half years which she reduced to two years after taking into consideration O’Connor’s position as a garda and the support of his family. She also noted O’Connor’s loss of standing in the community, the loss of his employment and his placement on the sex offender’s register.

The maximum custodial sentence for the offences is a prison term of five years.

During the trial Garda Janette Walsh testified that she found 43 video files in the recycle bin folder of the laptop. She said that 15 of these showed young boys being subjected to a sexual act.

Three of these videos involved boys under the age of 10 subjected to anal and oral penile penetration, she said. The other 12 videos retrieved showed boys between the ages of 10 and 17, Garda Walsh said. Two files depicted children being subjected to explicit sexual acts with a male adult.

The court heard there had been delays in bringing the case to a conclusion due, in part, to the involvement of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in investigating a complaint of assault made by the other man.

This man did not co-operate with this investigation and it was dropped.

‘Sick’

Mr Carroll said that his client denied knowing anything about the material and maintains his innocence. He had told investigators that a man who came to his house for sex, days before his laptop was seized, had corrupted his computer.

He denied downloading it and described it as “sick”. There was no evidence that O’Connor distributed the images elsewhere, the court head.

Counsel said O’Connor had an unblemished career and was a dedicated garda who had carried out his duties to the best of his ability. He said he suffered post-traumatic stress after a work incident in 1995 and took about nine months to recover.

Members of O’Connor’s family were in court for the hearings and his lawyers had handed a testimonial letter signed by his six siblings to Judge Sheahan.