The FBI contacted gardaí in West Cork about a person accessing a dark web site related to the exploitation of children five years ago and now he has been given a two-year suspended jail sentence.
Detective Sergeant Kevin Long of Cork West Divisional Protective Services Unit based in Dunmanway said they received information from the FBI identifying a person in their area accessing an online site dedicated to child exploitation. The user name was flipflapflop and this was identified as Paul Schilling.
Gardaí obtained a search warrant and went to his home at The Hill, Baltimore, County Cork, five years ago on May 17, 2016. A jury of five men and seven women was sworn in to hear the case against him for possession of child pornography.
However, when the single charge was amended to refer to possession of child pornography, namely three images of children, he pleaded guilty to the charge.
“He said he had viewed pornography over the years and some of it was people under age involved in sexual acts. He deleted the images as far as he knew and he never uploaded or shared images,” Det. Sgt Long said.
Donal O’Sullivan, defence barrister, said the accused had no relevant previous conviction, had not come to the attention of gardaí since this offence in 2016 and was a loner who had succeeded in education and was now in the process of studying for a Masters.
Mr O’Sullivan said the defendant had insight into his issues, had led a reasonably good life and had the capacity to turn his life around.
Mr O’Sullivan BL submitted that in terms of numbers, having three images was at the lowest end, particularly compared to cases where one frequently heard of thousands of images.
Judge Helen Boyle agreed that it was a low number but added: “It is still three images too many and represents three children somewhere in the world who are being abused.”
Against that, the judge said there were mitigating factors such as taking responsibility, cooperation with gardaí and not uploading or sharing images. The judge noted defence evidence of the 38-year-old having mental health difficulties as a child and having attended at counsellors for panic attacks.
“You will have to go on the Sex Offenders Register. That will be published and people in your community will be aware of this,” the judge commented.