Clare man avoids jail over possession of first book to be banned here in nearly 20 years

A 43-year-old west Clare man has escaped jail over his possession of a "disgusting" book which was the first book to be banned here by the censors in almost two decades.

At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keys said that a €500 fine and the placing of Clifford Murrihy on the Sex Offenders register were sufficient sanctions to meet the case.

Judge Keys said that the placing of Mr Murrihy on the Sex Offenders register "is a punishment in itself for what is a victimless crime".

The Judge said that he took into account that the written material in the book entitled ‘The Raped Little Runaway’ is not a direct product of child abuse.

He also said that he regarded this particular offence of child porn possession at the lower end of the spectrum.

In evidence, Detective Garda Donal Corkery told the court that the first 77 pages of the banned book contained five separate incidents that were sexually explicit in content and depicted sexual acts carried out on a 14-year-old girl.

Mr Murrihy of Crovroghan, Kildysart, Co. Clare, pleaded guilty to the possession of child pornography ‘The Raped Little Runaway’ by Jean Martin in November 2015 - four months before the book was banned by the censors here as a result of the Gardaí sending on the book.

The book was the first book to be banned here in nearly two decades by the Censorship of Publications Board (CBB) in March 2016.

At the time, Board chairman, Shane McCarthy said the decision was unanimous among the five board members.

He said: ”It was the only resort.

"The collective view of the board was that it was a vile publication as it contained graphic descriptions of the rape of a minor.”

In evidence, Det. Corkery said that during a course of a Garda search of Mr Murrihy’s home, gardaí found the book on Mr Murrihy’s bedside locker.

He said that photos of the book were taken by the ‘scenes of crime’ garda at the scene and the book was seized.

Det. Corkery said that gardaí were carrying out a search on an unrelated matter at the home and came across the book.

He said that he came across the five incidents of graphic content relating to the girl, 'Marissa' and stopped reading the book after 77 pages.

Judge Keys said that Mr Murrihy told gardaí that he never opened the book and said that the book was brought to the house by a person he named but that person could not be identified by gardaí.

Judge Keys said that Mr Murrihy told gardaí that he should have thrown out the book but it slipped his mind.

Mr Murrihy is not married, has no children and has no previous convictions.

Counsel for Mr Murrihy, Pat Whyms BL said that the book “is a disgusting book”.

Mr Whyms said that the book was legally published in the US where freedom of speech legislation is very liberal.

However, Mr Whyms said that unlike other child pornography cases coming before the courts “this is a victimless crime, there are no children used in any way in the production of the material”.

He said: “It is not a book that exploits children.

"It does satisfy the definition of child pornography, but it is very much at the lower end in terms of egregiousness and in terms of its consequences."

Mr Whyms said that there was no question of Mr Murrihy sharing the material.

Mr Whyms said that Mr Murrihy now finds himself on the Sex Offenders register “and that is a very severe punishment for this offence and not something that the court should add to”.

Judge Keys said that he took into account that the book was brought to Mr Murrihy’s home; his guilty plea, no previous convictions, his previous good character and his insight into the offence.

Judge Keys told him: “There is no evidence to suggest that you will re-offend and represent a danger to society.”

Judge Keys acceded to an application from state counsel, Lorcan Connolly BL, that the book be destroyed.

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