The disturbing revelation came at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court, where Judge Thomas O’Donnell said he was “flabbergasted” at the delay.
He was told by a detective from the Garda Computer Crime Investigations Unit, which examines computers from crimes ranging from pornography to bank probes, that the volume of material before it was “very large”.
Children’s rights groups and Garda staff associations expressed alarm at the figures and called on the justice minister to ensure that sufficient Garda numbers and resources were given to the unit.
The court heard that a computer seized on Mar 27, 2009, with 300 images and 27 movie clips of child pornography, was not analysed by the computer unit until Apr 29, 2012.
As a result of that, Aiden McIntyre, of Lismeegan, Aghamore, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, was arrested by gardaí on Jun 28, 2012. He first appeared in court on Aug 22, pleaded guilty, and appeared before court this week.
Judge O’Donnell said he was “flabbergasted” that it took so long for the images and videos to be analysed and asked Detective Martin Hogan why there was such a delay.
Det Hogan said that the volume of material they worked on in the unit was “very large”.
“Once something is on our desk, we try to expedite it as quickly as possible. This case was processed in two weeks from when it arrived on my desk and that would be consistent with my colleagues too, but we have a large volume of work to deal with.”
He said such cases were “a very large priority”, but that the unit itself is small, with a staff of 10. He said it would be down to nine this week, as he was retiring.
It is understood that as well as losing staff, the workload of the unit has increased substantially in recent years.
Tess Noonan, services manager of ISPCC Cork, said the length of time it took the case to come to court was “quite extreme”.
“What this is saying is that this is a resource issue. The lack of resources for this unit is of huge concern.”
A spokeswoman for Rape Crisis Network Ireland said: “The priority and resources given to the Garda Computer Crime Investigation Unit should reflect the seriousness of the crime.
“The RCNI would urge the minister of justice to ensure the [Garda Com-puter Crime Investigation Unit] is adequately re-sourced for their task so that these crimes can be dealt with in a timely manner.”
John Redmond of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said: “Cases where issues like this are mentioned by judges in the courts highlight again the impact of cutbacks on resources as has been pointed out by our association.”
The Garda Representative Association said while it did not want to comment on the case, it had “repeatedly warned that cutting Garda numbers and resources will diminish the policing service the public can expect”.
Garda management said they expect to be in a position to comment today.