A 28-year-old Dublin man who viewed and distributed child pornography has been given a suspended sentence.
Lawyers for Alex McMillan told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that his was an “exceptional” case, that he was at a low risk of re-offending and had co-operated with the investigation in every way he could.
Gardai traced an email address for a member of a website associated with child pornography to McMillan's home and seized his computer equipment there. The investigation uncovered 48 images and 340 videos of child pornography, some of which fell into the “most serious” category.
The court heard that in the five years since then, he has attended a psychologist and received counselling.
McMillan, of Beech Hill Drive, Donnybrook, Dublin, pleaded guilty to possession and distribution of child pornography on dates in July and August 2014. He has no previous convictions.
Judge Martin Nolan noted the Court of Criminal Appeal had indicated that even where possession and distribution is present in a case, the court could still consider a non-custodial sentence.
He said he considered the distribution in this case to be at the lower end of seriousness. He said it was not general distribution but to “like-minded individuals.” He took into account that McMillan had this case hanging over him for a considerable amount of time due to a lack of garda resources.
Judge Nolan said he thought he could deal with the case in a non-custodial way and imposed a three year sentence which he suspended in full.
Detective Garda Sinead O'Connor told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that gardai came into possession of an email address for a member of a website associated with child pornography and were able to associate it with McMillan's home address.
McMillan was present and was highly co-operative. He told gardai he was a user of file sharing network “GigaTribe.” He also handed over his passwords and access codes.
He admitted using an internet browser frequently used to access the “dark web”. The program hides the Internet Protocol address of the user, making the computer almost untraceable to law enforcement. McMillan said a person had sent him child pornography, which was how it started.
Gardai analysed the equipment seized and found a total of 48 images and 340 videos. The investigator found 45 of the images and 251 of the videos fell into the most serious category of child pornography depicting children engaged in or viewing explicit sexual acts.
Gardai were also able to establish that a folder had been shared four times via GigaTribe but were unable to say exactly what was shared.
Mr Berry told Judge Nolan that the distribution involved in this case was the provision of a password to allow another user access the folder on those four occasions.
McMillan was arrested nearly four years later following completion of the computer analysis. He gave a narrative of how he was exposed first to child pornography by a third party in a position of responsibility when just a child himself.
The court heard that McMillan came from a loving, supportive home and had been very co-operative with gardai. He had never come to garda attention before.
Det Gda O'Connor agreed with Fiona Murphy SC, defending, that McMillan had been “drawn in through chatrooms” but had never paid to get material or received payment for it and there had been no attempts to contact children.
The garda said she “fully agrees” that McMillan was a different type of person to those usually investigated in these type of cases. She agreed there was reason to believe he had not accessed this kind of material since the offending and that he would not do so in the future.
Ms Murphy said her client had been struggling to come to terms with his sexuality, was depressed and isolated. She said it seemed he was using it as some kind of coping mechanism, fell down a rabbit hole and could not get out.
She said he had since attended a psychologist and counsellor and done everything he could to use the time wisely. She said he had engaged on every level that he could have and asked the judge to view the case as “exceptional.”
Counsel said McMillan had been placed at a low risk of re-offending and had shown genuine remorse.