A Dublin man who collected and exchanged sexually explicit images of boys as young as two years old has been sentenced to four years.
Lawyers for Craig Gardiner (63) said he downloaded the images in order to maintain relationships with people described as “friends”.
Gardiner of Gibbons Terrace, Balbriggan, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of child pornography at Cyberzone cafe, Drogheda Street, Balbriggan on November 1, 2010 and to three counts of distribution of child pornography between June and September 2010.
Judge Martin Nolan suspended the final two years of a four year prison sentence on condition that he undergo the supervision of the Probation Service for two years.
Garda Louisa Gernan told Colm O'Briain BL, prosecuting, that Gardiner's offending came to light after an Internet cafe computer he was using became infected with a “suspicious” virus.
After his arrest gardai seized two mobile phones belonging to him. The phones were found to contain 755 images of child pornography.
These included 39 images of boys of ages between two and ten engaged in sex acts with adults.
The court heard that emails sent by Gardiner had attached 217 images of child pornography of a similar nature to the images found on his phones.
Gardiner, who has no previous convictions, briefly fled to Northern Ireland to avoid being arrested by gardaí, but later returned voluntarily.
Dominic McGinn SC, defending, told the court that Gardiner, who comes from Wales, has been estranged from his family since the 1970s when his father and siblings learned he is homosexual. His family didn’t tell him about his mother’s death until six months afterwards.
He moved to Ireland in the 1970s and began a 35-year relationship, the end of which coincided with the onset of serious health problems.
“It was perhaps those two catalysts that began his immersion into the dark world of the Internet and the crime of child pornography”, said Mr McGinn.
Describing Gardiner as naïve and lonely, counsel said that his client shared the images “to establish and maintain relationships with people".
Judge Nolan said Gardiner must have realised that children were abused in the creation of the images, but accepted that he was in “a very lonely part of his life,” and that his distribution was “among what could be termed friends” and not for profit.
He added that Gardiner was unlikely to reoffend.