Deputy primary-school principal jailed for 18 months for distributing child porn

Teacher (49) from Youghal found to have deleted thousands of pornographic images

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock

 

A 49-year-old deputy primary school principal has been jailed for 18 months after he pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing child pornography from his home in east Cork two years ago.

Brian Fitzgerald of Meadowlands, Youghal pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography and four counts of distributing child pornography on various dates been February and May 2017.

Sgt Mark Ward told Cork Circuit Criminal Court gardaí became aware of the offence when the National Child Protective Services Unit began investigating users accessing a child porn website.

They identified one computer user who was using the name “Schoolteacher” and they traced the download to Fitzgerald. Gardaí raided his house on May 6th, 2017 and seized computer equipment.

They arrested Fitzgerald but he denied possessing child pornography or knowing anything about child pornography and he was released without charge.

However gardaí sent the equipment for examination and garda cyber experts established child porn images and videos had been deleted from the computer.

Gardaí re-arrested Fitzgerald on June 25th, 2018 for questioning and when questioned about the deleted images and videos, he admitted they belonged to him.

Sgt Ward told the court gardaí established that Fitzgerald had downloaded 551 images and 1,162 videos depicting children under 17 engaging in various sexual acts. And they also established that he had downloaded 529 images and 1,018 videos depicting children under the age of 17 exposing their genitalia.

He said gardaí established that Fitzgerald had shared some 53 child porn images on four separate dates with individuals in the UK, US and Germany and they were now being investigated by foreign police.

Career break

Sgt Ward confirmed that Fitzgerald had gone on sick leave from the school where he was teaching following his first arrest in 2017 and he later took a career break in 2018 and had not taught since.

Defence barrister Stephen O’Donoghue pleaded for leniency, pointing out that his client, a single man, had moved back into the family home in Youghal and was caring for his elderly mother who has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

He also submitted a medical report, confirming that Fitzgerald had engaged with a psychotherapist over the past year and had gained an insight into his offending and was deeply remorseful over his behaviour.

Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said possession of child pornography was a serious offence but of even more concern to him were the distribution charges where he shared such images with others.

“This is a very heinous matter – he knowingly and actively distributed child pornographic images to others – it certainly is not a victimless crime as the children in these images were exploited.”

He said it was regrettable that these child pornographic images were so accessible but society could not tolerate their distribution and anyone sharing such vile images merited a custodial sentence.

He sentenced Fitzgerald to three years in jail on the distribution charges and on the possession charge but he suspended the final 18 months to incentivise his rehabilitation while in prison.