Hundreds of images of children, some as young as four, were found on the mobile phone of a former local authority clerical officer during a fraud investigation by gardaí.
Conversations of “the most vile nature” via electronic means, with a small number of like-minded individuals, some of them from outside of Ireland, were also uncovered, the Circuit Criminal Court in Killarney was told.
John O’Donoghue, 40, and of Villa Alverna, Park Road, Killarney pleaded guilty to having 400 images on his phone on November 11, 2017.
He also pleaded guilty to 25 counts of electronic distribution of images of child pornography, including electronic communications with others on social media, between December 2016 and November 2017.
O’Donoghue was jailed for a total of five years and the court was told he did not produce the material, or engage in acts, but instead fantasized.
Gardai from Dublin investigating dishonesty and theft offences in 2017 had seized O'Donoghue's mobile phone and they discovered the child pornography, triggering a fresh investigation, Detective Garda James Daly said.
Some 400 images of male and female children, ranging in age from four to pre-teens, their genitals exposed, were found. The court heard that 390 images were “at the lower end of the scale”, but 10 were of children as young as four being abused by young males, including rape. One of the videos was of a boy being anally raped by a male adult.
“Conversations of the most vile nature” about the imagery shared with a small number of individuals were also uncovered. The images were shared clandestinely via encryption.
O'Donoghue had 66 previous convictions, mostly for false accounting, theft and fraud. But he also had a conviction in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court dating to an offence in 2012 for possession of child pornography. The court in Killarney heard that all such cases were delayed and he was jailed for the 2012 possession offence for four years with 18 months suspended in 2018.
Senior Counsel Mark Nicholas said after 2012 his client’s life was one on “a linear scale of a life going into decline.” O'Donoghue had been a clerical officer in a local authority in Dublin and after the theft of cash he lost his job in 2012. He had had an adult male partner and the relationship broke up. He began drinking too much.
Det Daly agreed with Mr Nicholas that the accused was co-operative in all matters. He had told gardaí this was “fantasy” for sexual gratification and he never engaged in the acts or in producing the material.
Addressing Judge Helen Boyle, Mr Nicholas said his client had been abused between ages 10 and 13 and had a good education, but in 2017 his life had descended.
During his time in prison, he engaged in therapy and a psychiatrist’s report was handed into court.
Judge Helen Boyle accepted this was not a case of thousands of images widely broadcast by the accused. The abuse he suffered as a child, but never acknowledged by him, may explain the downward spiral in adulthood, she said.
There was a low risk of re-offending according to the psychiatrist’s report.
However, 10 images were of child rape; one of the videos was of a child being raped; the discussions were “of a vile nature”; the discussions were of raping children and what would be done to children, “all of them horrific in nature,” noted Judge Boyle.
She sentenced him to four years with one year suspended on the possession count; and to six years with the final year suspended on the distribution count. The sentences are to run concurrently.
Mr O’Donoghue has been placed on the sex offenders register for ten years.