THE High Court has confirmed an order removing a former deputy primary school principal jailed for distributing and possessing child pornography from the teaching register.
Last year, Brian Fitzgerald pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to one count of possession of child pornography on May 6, 2017, and four charges of distributing more than 50 images of child pornography on dates in February, March, and April 2017.
He was found to have 555 images and 1,162 videos involving children under the age of 17 engaged in sexual activity with other children or adults.
He was also found to have 529 category two images and 1,018 videos which involves children under the age of 18 with their genitalia exposed. After admitting the offences, Fitzgerald expressed remorse for his actions.
Fitzgerald, with an address at Links Road, Youghal, County Cork, was sentenced to three years in prison, to be served in the Midlands Prison, with the final 18 months suspended.
The 50-year-old, who was a registered teacher for many years prior to his conviction, was then the subject of an investigation, and disciplinary hearing conducted by the Teaching Council.
At the High Court Mr Justice Denis McDonald, following an application made by solicitor JP McDowell for the the Teaching Council, formally confirmed the order removing Fitzgerald from the register.
The sanction imposed by the Council was entirely appropriate given the circumstances, the judge said.
The judge also noted that the council also imposed a requirement that Fitzgerald could not seek to apply to be restored to the register for a period of 15 years.
Seeking the confirmation Mr McDowell said that in 2017 Garda were given information from New Zealand’s Police force about a particular website, which allowed files and videos to be shared by groups of people.
It was alleged that Fitzgerald, using the username ‘schoolteacher’ uploaded a video containing child pornography.
That username was traced to a residential address and an IP address used by Fitzgerald.
Various devices, including computers belonging to Fitzgerald, were examined by the gardaí.
A large number of of files containing images and videos containing child pornography, some of them involving very young boys and girls including babies, were discovered.
Fitzgerald initially denied the allegations, but later admitted the offences, Mr McDowell said.
Evidence was also found from the garda analysis that Fitzgerald had shared some of these files with other persons located overseas, Mr McDowell said.
Arising out of the prosecution and conviction of Fitzgerald, the Teaching Council commenced an investigation.
Following the investigation a disciplinary committee found that he should be removed from the register of teachers.
Mr McDowell said Mr Fitzgerald was aware of the investigation, the subsequent hearing into the allegations, and the sanction imposed against him by the teaching council.
He did not attend the hearing, and he neither contested nor appealed the council’s finding against him nor the sanction imposed, Mr McDowell said.
The Teaching Council fully also agreed with Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin when sentencing Fitzgerald when he said that Fitzgerald had committed a “heinous” and not a victimless crime, Mr McDowell added.