A man caught with over 300 sexually explicit images of children has been given a suspended sentence.
In June 2020, gardaí went to the Dublin home of Patrick O'Brien (70) after receiving information from the garda online child exploitation unit about the downloading of child sex abuse imagery on a digital device linked to his address.
O'Brien's wife opened the door and gardaí asked her and her two adult children to assemble in one room and for her to contact O'Brien, who was not in the house.
When O'Brien returned, he told gardaí there was “no point in covering up, it's me”. He admitted that he had downloaded the illegal images on his mobile phone and handed the phone over.
An analysis of the phone later found around 200 images of children posing in a sexually explicit manner and 55 images of naked children.
Another 75 images showed children as young as three years old being sexually abused by adults. The images were described in graphic detail during the sentence hearing.
O'Brien, of Oakwood Grove, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of child abuse imagery, contrary to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998, on June 6th 2020. He has no previous convictions.
The court heard 57 of the images were in the most serious category of child abuse imagery.
On Monday, Judge Melanie Greally said this was a “borderline case which had to be viewed in the most serious light” but noted he had a very strong body of mitigation.
She took into account O'Brien's early guilty plea, admissions, remorse, age and family circumstances.
The judge also noted the immediate and consistent steps taken by him towards rehabilitation.
She noted that at 70 years of age, he will now be a registered sex offender and have to accept the accept the odium and contempt with which this particular conduct is associated.
Judge Greally imposed a 20-month sentence which she suspended in full for 20 months.
She imposed conditions including 12 months probation supervision and offence and victim-focused work to address his dynamic intervention needs.
Judge Greally said if O’Brien is assessed as suitable for a sex offenders treatment program, he should engage as directed and do such a program.
Detective Garda Gemma Casserly told the court that during his interview, O'Brien admitted that he had downloaded “child abuse images” from the internet.
O'Brien said that he had started looking at the material a few months earlier and had never shared it with anyone else. His lawyers handed in a letter from his wife who said that this behaviour was completely out of character for him.
The court heard that he began counselling after the offending came to light.
Kevin White BL, defending, told the court there was an explanation for the behaviour provided in the probation report now before the court, as well as remorse outlined.
He asked the court to take into account his admissions, that he handed over his device and attended voluntarily at a garda station. He said there was no suggestion of dissemination of the images.
Mr White said O’Brien was at low risk of reoffending and noted the protective factors outlined in the report such as his age, stable relationship, no history of criminality, work history and attendance with a psychologist, which he is willing to continue.
He asked the court to also take into account the reputational damage this offence carries and the fact he is now, at 70 years of age, on the sex offender register.