A former teacher and table tennis coach who was found in possession of thousands of child pornography images has been jailed for one year.
By Jessica Magee and Isabel Hayes
John O’Donoghue (58) pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court earlier this year to a single count of possessing the pornographic material at his former home in Weaver’s Hall, Stepaside, Dublin on March 27, 2012.
Handing down a two-year sentence with the final year suspended today/yesterday (FRI), Judge Patricia Ryan noted there had been a systemic delay in bringing the matter to court. She accepted O’Donoghue ha undergone intensive rehabilitation and was “in a different place now”.
“He has gained insight into his wrongdoing,” Judge Ryan said.
Garda Brian Davoren previously told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that gardaí searched O’Donoghue’s premises on foot of confidential information received in 2008.
They retrieved a total of 2,500 images and 13 movie files of child pornography, contained on a computer, laptop, memory stick and two external hard drives.
The court heard that 496 of the images displayed children involved in explicit sexual activity, while a further 2,048 of the images showed a child with their genital region exposed.
Of the 13 movie files retrieved by gardaí, two contained explicit sexual activity involving children, while 11 contained a child with their genital region exposed.
O’Donoghue, with an address at Leinster Square, Rathmines, Dublin has four previous convictions for indecent assaulting a young boy in 2013, for which he received a three-and-a-half year sentence with the final 18 months suspended.
Judge Ryan noted that had the child pornography offence been dealt with at the same time as the indecent assault matter, then the consequences for O’Donoghue might have been different.
She noted a number of aggravating factors, including the effect the offending had on the children involved, but said the delay in bringing the case to court had to be taken into account.
The court heard that when O’Donoghue was arrested in December 2016 and shown the computers seized from his former home, he said, “It’s not my PC.”
When told about the images discovered by gardaí, O’Donoghue said he “wasn’t aware” that they were on his equipment and added, “Look, I find this to be disgusting and I do not look at child pornography. The fact that children may have been hurt in making these - I am seriously upset about that.”
Mary Rose Gearty SC, defending, said that through nobody’s fault, there had been a systemic delay in bringing this case to court, but that in the interim, O’Donoghue had taken significant steps to rehabilitate himself.
“The man being sentenced today is not the man arrested in 2012, because he has since pleaded guilty, served a sentence and completed a Safer Lives programme on his release from prison. He is a different person,” said Ms Gearty.
She said he had resigned his job as a teacher “for obvious reasons” and had engaged in individual and group therapy.
She said O’Donoghue’s social life had revolved around table tennis, but that he had given up coaching the sport so as not to be around young people.
Ms Gearty cited a report by Forensic Psychological Services which said O’Donoghue had “reasonably good insight” into both of his offences, that he took responsibility for his actions and expressed remorse for their impact on his victims.
A probation report said O’Donoghue had made progress and that the Probation Services were in a position to supervise him to maintain that progress.
A further report from the Safer Lives programme said O’Donoghue had fully acknowledged the harm caused to his victims and recognised the inability of young people to consent to sexual activity.
The court heard that O’Donoghue will be on the list of Child Sex Offenders indefinitely.