By Declan Brennan
An American financial consultant was arrested by US federal marshals last year in order to face charges of possessing child pornography 12 years ago, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has heard.
Shawn Towner (44) was subsequently extradited back to Ireland and pleaded guilty to the charges as early as possible.
The court heard he had originally been released without charge in 2006 after gardaí raided his home and found the illegal material.
The five videos contained sexual images of children as young as ten years old.
Lorcan Staines BL, defending, said the images were heinous and reprehensible but amounted to less than one per cent of the amount of legal pornography found on Towner at the time.
Towner pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography at his home on Brewery Rd., Stillorgan, Dublin on March 30, 2006.
The material was found on a laptop and CDs and had being downloaded for free using the internet file sharing software, Limewire.
Judge Martin Nolan said that after seizing the material gardaí tried to get immediate directions from the DPP to charge Towner but that wasn’t forthcoming.
Towner had already being planning to return to the US and he was then free to do so. The file was overlooked and only activated again a couple of years ago when the DPP authorised gardaí to charge Towner.
Gardai successfully applied for an extradition warrant and last August US marshals arrested Towner on the front porch of his home, Mr Staines said.
Counsel said his client spent the next two months in the “appalling conditions” of a federal prison. He was extradited back to Ireland in late October.
Judge Nolan suspended a two year prison sentence on condition that Towner leave Ireland in the next week.
He noted that Towner has no other criminal convictions and that no money was paid for the material. He said he could take into consideration the delay in prosecuting the case and Towner’s co-operation with gardaí.
He noted that Towner’s actions had brought shame on himself and his family and lowered his career prospects. Towner will be registered as a sex offender here and in the US.
The court heard that the system for sex offenders in the US was “pretty brutal” and involved neighbours being notified and his photograph going up on the internet.
Mr Staines said that his client had come to Ireland in 2005 to work for a large international bank.
He found it hard to fit in and became depressed and began downloading lots of adult porn at home. Counsel said much of this adult porn was “outside the norm” and a “very small amount” of it was child pornography.
He said this latter material was appalling and his client was very remorseful. Towner told gardaí in 2006 that he had made a huge mistake through “stupidity and curiosity”.
He told them: “I’ve just ruined my life”. Counsel said after his release Towner returned to the US and took up jobs as a fund accounts manager and later a financial consultant.