Garda loses anonymity bid in child porn case

Officer intends to plead not guilty to possessing images of child abuse

 

A garda awaiting trial for possessing more than 650 images of child sexual abuse has lost a legal bid to remain anonymous.

Joe O’Connor (53), who is stationed at a Dublin city-centre garda station but is currently suspended, is accused of possession of 655 child abuse images at his west Dublin home between July 30 th and 2 August 2011, charges he denies.

The charges relate to explicit images, movie files, and computer graphic images.

Earlier in the proceedings it was indicated that the case could be dealt with by the district court, where penalties are less severe, if he pleaded guilty to the charges.

Defence solicitor Matthew Kenny told Blanchardstown District Court his client would be pleading not guilty to the charges.

This mean that the case will go forward for trial before a judge and jury at the Circuit Court, which on conviction, can impose lengthier sentences.

Mr Kenny asked for the book of evidence to be served within four weeks to allow the case to be sent forward for trial as soon as possible as the allegations were a cause of stress and anxiety to his client.

The defence lawyer also asked for the case to be marked as peremptory against the State meaning that the book of evidence would have to be served by that date.

But Judge David McHugh said he would not mark the case as peremptory to allow the State.

In relation to reporting restrictions which were challenged today by lawyers for RTE, the Irish Daily Mail and Independent Newspapers, the judge held that tere was no evidence that Mr O’Connor’s right to a fair trial will be affected by the lifting of the anonymity order.

Mr Kenny asked for reporting restrictions preventing the reporting of his client’s name to remain in place as he said that he was “in a wholly exceptional category” and that his client’s life in danger.

The defence lawyer said Mr O’Connor may suffer an attack or intimidation by members of his community as a result of the allegations.

“This defendant was to be on the beat the day he was suspended,” said Mr Kenny. “Is there anything more offensive than child pornography or child molestations? ...They disgust the public,” he added.

Mr Kenny argued that trial by media would also impact on his client’s ability to a fair trial if he were named.

But lawyers for RTE, Independent Newspapers and The Irish Daily Mail asked for the reporting restrictions to be lifted saying Mr O’Connor had no right to anonymity and that justice should be administered in an open court.

State solicitor Donal Forde said the case was not exceptional and submitted that the garda’s claim his life was at risk was hypothetical.

Judge McHugh said he was satisfied that identifying the garda posed no real risk of an unfair trial and he lifted the reporting restrictions.

Mr Kenny asked the judge to put a 24-hour stay on the order to allow Mr O’Connor to decide whether or not he would appeal the decision at the High Court.

Judge McHugh placed a stay on the order until 5pm today to allow for a judicial review but no appeal is being made against the District Court’s decision.

Judge McHugh remanded Mr O’Connor on continuing bail to appear before the court again in four weeks for service of the book of evidence.

Earlier legal aid had been granted to the 53-year-old after the court heard that he had a substantial mortgage, there had been a significant reduction in his circumstances and that he was struggling.