Tusla employee had more than 2,000 child porn images on home computer

Denis O’Donovan (34) who has now left Tusla claimed at first he was researching child porn as part of his work

A detective told the court    the images were of the most serious Category 1 type.

A detective told the court the images were of the most serious Category 1 type.

 

A 34-year-old man was found with over 2,000 child porn images at his home in Cork city while he was working for the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, a court has heard.

Denis O’Donovan pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography at his home at Forest Ridge, Doughcloyne, Togher, on March 9th 2017, contrary to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act when he appeared at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday.

Det Garda David Noonan of the Garda Protective Services Unit in Cork city, said gardaí were alerted to the offence by the National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre based in Canada who directed them to the man’s address.

What triggered the centre’s initial interest in that address was the use of a particular messenger app associated with the sharing of pictures and images, he said, but he stressed the defendant was not charged with any distribution offence.

He said a team of gardaí under Insp Noel Madden went to the defendant’s home where they seized his computer which was found to contain 2,350 images and 14 video files featuring child pornography.

Det Garda Noonan said that when cautioned O’Donovan denied any wrongdoing and said he was researching child pornography as part of his work with Tusla in their South Lee Social Department where he said he was part of an anti-pornography group.

Huge mistake

The detective said the images were of the most serious Category 1 type. One of the video files was 43 seconds long and showed a four-year-old girl being subjected to penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts by an adult male.

“He acknowledged he was in possession of these images. He aligned himself with an anti-child pornography group and described the images as tame saying each child was not in distress. He said he worked with sexual offenders and paedophiles and was trying to figure them out.

“(Later) he said it started in his 20s. It escalated from looking at children under 17, naked. He would masturbate to these pictures. It was always pictures he would have preferred,” Det Garda Noonan told the court.

Defence barrister, Sinead Behan re-iterated that her client was not charged with any distribution offence and she put it to Det Garda Noonan and he agreed that O’Donovan’s position with Tusla was administrative and he had no contact with children in his work.

Ms Behan said her client had made two suicide attempts since the matter came to light. He was now in alternative employment, had undergone counselling for issues related to this problem and was married since October 2017.

O’Donovan’s wife, Caroline said her husband had made a huge mistake which he deeply regretted. “He tells me all the time how sorry he is. He has remorse. He is attending all his appointments (for treatment). We just want to get on with our lives.”

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said it was a particularly concerning case given O’Donovan’s employment at the time with Tusla but he appeared to have dealt with the matter correctly by making admission to his wife and getting help for addressing his problems.

He agreed to a defence application to adjourn the matter until November 1st to allow for an update on his progress in therapy but he warned that he was not binding himself on whether or not there would a custodial or non-custodial sentence at the end. The defendant was remanded on bail until that date.