Girl allegedly downloaded videos of infants being raped from Dark Web

The court heard it was alleged the teen believed paedophilia was an acceptable sexuality
Girl allegedly downloaded videos of infants being raped from Dark Web

Tom Tuite

Warning: Readers may find details in this story distressing

A then 15-year-old girl downloaded hundreds of videos and images of infants and young children raped and tortured, a court has heard.

Now aged 17, she appeared at the Dublin Children's Court on Monday just after gardaí charged her with two offences under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act.

The court heard it was alleged the teen believed paedophilia was an acceptable sexuality and that she could use the Dark Web, a specialised internet browser for hidden sites online.

She is accused of possessing 348 images and 196 videos classified as category one, graphically featuring sexual activity. Gardaí also charged her with having 432 images assessed as category two, showing child exposure. The teen cannot be named because she is a minor.

US assistance

The investigation commenced after the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in the United States contacted Irish authorities in 2019.

Garda Inspector Conor O Braonain told district court president Judge Paul Kelly that the girl "made no reply to charge".

Due to the volume and depravity of the material, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) recommended trial on indictment in the circuit court which has broader sentencing powers.

However, because she is a juvenile, she was entitled to a preliminary hearing to plead with the Children’s Court to accept jurisdiction.

Outlining the prosecution case, Inspector O Braonain said American authorities informed gardaí of the presence of child abuse images and a video in a Google account.

Gardaí used her IP (internet protocol) address to find out where she lived. Then, Gardai had her mobile phone forensically examined. Files were extracted onto a hard drive and analysed.

Physical torture

Inspector O Braonain said one of the videos was made in the Philippines and featured an 18-month-old raped and physically tortured.

In the presence of a parent, the teenage girl later signed a consent form giving gardaí the password to her online account.

Inspector O Braonain also linked images to a specific Dropbox computer file account and requested mutual assistance from US authorities.

As a result, in 2020, gardaí could analyse contents of the Dropbox file.

It contained hundreds of jpeg image files and videos arranged in 16 folders with specific titles. The folders had different titles, including "two-year-old" and “toddler raped” and one about a named baby.

Questioned by defence solicitor Eoghan O’Sullivan, Inspector O Braonain agreed the girl had been attending Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. He accepted she provided great assistance to the investigation, and since then, Tusla admitted her into special care.

The court heard she "was groomed at the age of 10 in relation to this type of behaviour". It came to the attention of social workers in 2015 following concerns she had been sexually exploited online.

Tusla provided her with therapeutic support, and social workers ensured she never left her accommodation alone.

Mr O'Sullivan asked the court to note her harrowing background and that the girl was immature at the time of the offences. She had no prior criminal convictions, the court heard.

Book of evidence

Refusing jurisdiction, however, Judge Kelly said it was clearly too serious for the Children's Court. He adjourned the case for the DPP to complete a book of evidence for her trial.

Inspector O Braonain also objected to bail due to the seriousness of the case. He said the girl had not been diagnosed with any mental health conditions, but she lacked empathy and believed a child's abduction, torture, and murder was okay.

He alleged she showed no remorse and was manipulative.

He also cited the level of planning used.

Dark Web

"The organisation of folders was not haphazard; it was organised in sections," he said, adding that she managed to keep it secret from her family. Inspector O Braonain also maintained that she was "technically competent" and "can comfortably navigate the Dark Web".

He cited flight risk concerns after the girl allegedly told him that she had learned a foreign language and planned to leave Ireland to teach music.

He also said, "she identifies paedophilia as an acceptable sexuality and is awaiting the opportunity to commit a contact offence; her sexual boundaries are very much distorted."

Her solicitor pleaded with the court to impose strict bail conditions, including banning her from having or using any internet-capable device.

Judge Kelly agreed to make that one of the bail terms. He also warned her that she must not leave her accommodation unaccompanied or apply for a passport.

The girl spoke twice during the hearing saying "yes" when asked if she understood the bail terms and that breaking them could result in being detained.


If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help.

In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.

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