A Dublin man who possessed thousands of child pornography images and coerced young girls to send him sexually graphic pictures and videos of themselves has been jailed for seven and a half years.
Matthew Horan (26) used Skype, Snapchat, Instagram and Kik, an anonymous instant messaging application, to send and receive child porn images from six identified child users in Ireland and nine unknown users around the world.
A forensic examination of Horan’s computer uncovered recorded Skype calls between him and two nine-year-old-girls, both individually and together. The recordings included footage of these girls engaging in graphic sexual acts.
Horan also took part in sexually explicit text conversations with the girls, during which there was an exchange of photos.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Horan would use Kik to share child porn images and videos with unidentified users around the world, most of whom claimed to be young teenagers.
Threat to share images
He threatened to share an 11-year-old girl’s nude images to her social media accounts if she didn’t send him more graphic photos.
In the text exchange between them, this girl repeatedly told Horan she would kill herself. He then continued to coerce her to send more images, the court heard.
Horan, of St John's Crescent, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty to a count each of sexually exploiting two girls within the State on dates between April 1st and November 23rd, 2014.
He pleaded guilty to two more counts of sexually exploiting a child and one count of distributing child pornography on dates in 2015. He further pleaded guilty to possessing child porn at his address on July 11th, 2015.
He pleaded guilty to three further counts of sexually exploiting female children through Snapchat and Instagram in the State on dates between May 21st, 2015 and July 7th, 2016.
He also pleaded guilty to possessing child porn on a Sony mobile phone at his home on July 7th, 2016. He has no previous convictions.
Judge Martin Nolan suspended the last two years of the nine-and-a-half year sentence. He said Horan had a very unhealthy, insidious and debased sexual interest in children.
He said the crimes were all committed for Horan’s indulgence and pleasure and Horan had exploited children in a most horrible way. He said Horan’s actions would have long-term effects on the victims.
He noted a medical report which stated that child porn became Horan’s autistic fixated interest. An autistic fixated interest is one which serves as a source of pleasure and relaxation for those on the autistic spectrum, the report stated.
“He knew what he was doing was wrong. He understood the damage and yet he didn’t stop what he was doing,” he said.
Judge Nolan backdated the sentence to June last year, when Horan went into custody. He ordered a report from the Probation Service into what interventions and services the prison service could provide to reform Horan.
“If there are such interventions, he has to partake of those meaningfully. It is important for society and him that he is given certain interventions that will change him,” he said.
One of the victims, who was 10 when Horan exploited her, told the court she thought chatting online was safe and was “like making a new friend”.
“It wasn’t. It made me feel ashamed, scared and alone,” she said. She said she felt sad and angry about the exploitation, but she wanted to prevent it happening to anybody else.
“I felt scared because I told him where I had lived. I was afraid he was going to come and get me,” she said, in a victim impact statement read out in court on Friday.
Two other victim impact statements, written by parents of two of the nine-year-old victims, were read out in court on Monday.
Earlier in the week, a father of one victim, a then nine-year-old girl, said his daughter had bought her phone with her Holy Communion money to watch cartoons, dancing and singing online.
Outside the court, Det Supt Declan Daly said this case was a "timely reminder of the dangers that can occur on the internet and the need for parents to be vigilant of their children's internet use".
He said it was “exceptionally dangerous” for children to share images online, and that children should never agree to meet any person they encountered via the internet.
He said if images have been shared already, gardaí recommend that children should not share any more images, stop all communication and tell a parent or appropriate adult.
“They should preserve the evidence and not delete anything, and they should report the matter to gardaí,” he said.
Lawyers for Horan told the court that Horan’s father’s home in Clondalkin was attacked on Monday night, with the front door and windows smashed.