Monday 15 October 2018

Former teacher to be sentenced for possessing child pornography - including pictures, videos and cartoons

The case was brought before the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
The case was brought before the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Jessica Magee

A 58-year-old former teacher and table tennis coach is to be sentenced next week for possession of child pornography five and a half years ago.

John O'Donoghue pleaded guilty earlier this year to a single count of possessing the pornographic material at his former home in Weaver's Hall, Stepaside, Dublin 18, on March 27, 2012.

In Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today Garda Brian Davoren told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that gardaí searched the premises on foot of confidential information received in 2008.

They retrieved a total of 2,500 images and 13 movie files of child pornography, contained on a computer, laptop, memory stick and two external hard drives.

The court heard that 496 of the images displayed children involved in explicit sexual activity, and were described as Category 1, or the worst on the scale of seriousness of child pornography.

A further 2,048 of the images showed a child with their genital region exposed and were described as Category 2 on the scale of seriousness.

Gda Davoren said the Computer Crime Investigation Unit of Ireland uses nine categories as a guideline scale for the seriousness of pornographic offences, one to five of which deal with child pornography.

Of the 13 movie files retrieved by gardaí, two contained explicit sexual activity involving children, while 11 contained a child with their genital region exposed.

O'Donoghue, with an address at Leinster Square, Rathmines, has four previous convictions of indecent assault of a young boy in 2013, for which he received a three-and-a-half year sentence with the final 18 months suspended.

The court heard that when O'Donoghue was arrested in December 2016 and shown the computers seized from his former home, he said, “It's not my PC.”

When told about the images discovered by gardaí, O'Donoghue said he “wasn't aware” that they were on his equipment and added, “Look, I find this to be disgusting and I do not look at child pornography. The fact that children may have been hurt in making these, I am seriously upset about that.”

Mary Rose Gearty SC, defending, said that through nobody's fault, there had been a systemic delay in bringing this case to court, but that in the interim, O'Donoghue had taken significant steps to rehabilitate himself.

“The man being sentenced today is not the man arrested in 2012, because he has since pleaded guilty, served a sentence and completed a Safer Lives programme on his release from prison. He is a different person,” said Ms Gearty.

She said he had resigned his job as a teacher “for obvious reasons” and had engaged in individual and group therapy.

She said O'Donoghue's social life had revolved around table tennis, but that he had given up coaching the sport so as not to be around young people.

Ms Gearty cited a report by Forensic Psychological Services which said O'Donoghue had “reasonably good insight” into both of his offences, that he took responsibility for his actions and expressed remorse for their impact on his victims.

A probation report said O'Donoghue had made progress and that the Probation Services were in a position to supervise him to maintain that progress.

A further report from the Safer Lives programme said O'Donoghue had fully acknowledged the harm caused to his victims and recognised the inability of young people to consent to sexual activity.

The court heard that O'Donoghue will be on the list of Child Sex Offenders indefinitely.

Judge Patricia Ryan said she would require time to read the detailed reports submitted by the defence. She adjourned the case for sentencing next Friday, November 10.

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