Jail for man who sent pornographic images of children to undercover FBI agent

A man who was caught in possession of hundreds of images of child pornography after sending illicit material to an undercover FBI agent has been jailed for 18 months.
Jail for man who sent pornographic images of children to undercover FBI agent
Judge Elma Sheahan said the offences charged were very serious because they involved “the creation of a market for the abuse of children”. File image
Judge Elma Sheahan said the offences charged were very serious because they involved “the creation of a market for the abuse of children”. File image

A man who was caught in possession of hundreds of images of child pornography after sending illicit material to an undercover FBI agent has been jailed for 18 months.

Dermot Whelan (67) of The Crescent, Belgard Heights, Tallaght, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of child pornography on two computer devices at his address on July 21, 2014.

Whelan also pleaded guilty to knowingly distributing child pornography at his address on an unknown date between October 20, 2012 and July 21, 2014. He has no previous convictions.

Passing sentence today, Judge Elma Sheahan said the offences charged were very serious because they involved “the creation of a market for the abuse of children”.

Judge Sheahan said that as this type of offending is hidden in nature, deterrence is an important factor alongside rehabilitation. She said the court must keep on notice “the unspeakable degradation committed on young children so that someone such as the accused can seek sexual gratification”.

She accepted that Whelan has been a carer for his wife and son in recent years. She said that the court struggled to understand how a man in his sixties could engage in offending that has at its origin the abuse of children.

Judge Sheahan sentenced Whelan to three years imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months on strict conditions including that he follow all directions of the Probation Service for two years post release.

At an earlier sentencing hearing, Detective Garda Trevor Scanlon told Pieter Le Vert BL, prosecuting, that the case originated with a member of the FBI working undercover and monitoring certain internet chat rooms which were suspected of being places where possessors of child pornography congregated.

Det Gda Scanlon said that in 2012, the FBI agent placed an advertisement designed to appeal to people interested in child pornography. The agent received a response from an email address which sent them 25 images of child pornography.

The FBI agent contacted Yahoo who determined that the email address was located in Ireland. Gardaí obtained a search warrant for the accused's address and seized a number of electronic devices.

A laptop seized was found to have accessed a number of websites containing child pornography. Three explicit child pornography videos were discovered on the laptop.

Also found on the laptop were 53 explicit images of child pornography and 182 child exposure images. Further images of child pornography were discovered on a desktop computer.

In interview with gardaí, Whelan said he thought child pornography was disgusting and that under no circumstances would he harm a child. He offered as an excuse for the material being found on the computers the fact that he had bought them second hand.

In a subsequent interview, Whelan admitted he had viewed child pornography and sent it on to others via email. He said that at the time he thought it was okay because he was not buying it or contributing to it.

Whelan said he was sexually aroused by the images. He said this was something he deeply regretted and that he has not viewed pornography of any kind since the offences.

Det Gda Scanlon agreed with James Dwyer SC, defending, that the manner of possession was that the files were viewed and thus went into a “temp file”, meaning that only a minority of the images were actually downloaded.

Mr Dwyer said his client has removed Wi-Fi from his home and has undergone therapy. He said that without admissions made by Whelan, it was likely his client would not have been charged with distributing child pornography.

Counsel submitted that this was less serious offending than was often seen in cases like this, particularly with regard to the volume of material involved. He said this may be a case that did not require his client's immediate incarceration.

Mr Dwyer said his client has worked for over a year in a charity shop.

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