A former youth worker caught with child pornography which he sent to others online while pretending to be a 15-year-old boy has been given a suspended sentence.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Des Kavanagh (39) had suppressed his sexuality as a gay man since he was a teenager and on joining an online adolescent chat group had felt accepted and found support he did not have in real life.
Kavanagh pretended to be 15 during most of the online conversations and began sending images which included child pornography to other users, pretending the images were of himself.
A forensic psychologist told Judge Martin Nolan that Kavanagh had been interested in chatting online with people the same age as he was when he discovered he was gay.
Gardai received information from Interpol and obtained search warrants for locations linked to Kavanagh which led to the recovery of 240 images and two short movie clips from his laptops.
The movies and images all fell into the two lowest categories of illegal material which are child posing and sexual activity between children. There were no images in the most serious categories.
Kavanagh, of Turra, Glynn, Carlow pleaded guilty to possession and distribution of child pornography at a former address in Tallaght, Dublin in May and June 2010. He has no previous convictions.
Judge Nolan noted Kavanagh had been candid with the gardaí and made full admissions. He said Kavanagh was a complicated man who had suppressed his sexuality for a long time which created problems.
He said the distribution and downloading of the images was not for profit. He said it seemed Kavanagh did not pose a risk to children and the evidence was he was unlikely to re-offend.
The judge noted that this was a serious offence and this type of behaviour caused harm.
Judge Nolan said in this particular case it would be unfair to impose a custodial sentence due to Kavanagh's history, level of involvement, the categories of the images and the way he met the case.
He imposed a two year sentence which he suspended on condition Kavanagh be of good behaviour.
Judge Nolan said it seemed Kavanagh had received help and the involvement of the probation service was not required.
Defence counsel, Philip Rahn BL, submitted that the case was not at first blush what one thought of when one heard of child pornography and asked the court to take into account that this had been hanging over Kavanagh for six years during which time he had come to no further garda attention.
He asked the court to take into account the category of the images and see the offences in light of the type of distribution involved. He said his client had been assessed as at low risk of re-offending and had expressed remorse. He co-operated fully with gardai.
Garda Kieran McGrath told Geraldine Small BL, prosecuting, that following receipt of information from Interpol gardai obtained search warrants and seized a number of laptops from Kavanagh.
They were sent for analysis and 240 images and two movie clips of child pornography were found.
Gda McGrath said Kavanagh, who was a youth worker at the time, was co-operative with gardai and made full admissions.
He said that in most online conversations Kavanagh was pretending to be a 15 year old boy. He said Kavanagh would start by sending an “innocent” image of a boy and later sent images of child porn to other users pretending it was of himself.
He told gardai he had been involved in chat rooms for about 18 months and admitted he had been getting gratification from it. He said he had pretended to be a 15 year old as a way for other people online to get talking to him. He said that there was also adult pornography involved.
Gda McGrath told Judge Nolan that gardai were not certain if Kavanagh was talking to children as they only had the other people's user names.
He agreed with Mr Rahn that there was no suggestion of any contact offences and that Kavanagh had not come to any further garda attention. He agreed that Kavanagh had accepted full responsibility for the material and that the distribution was not for commercial gain.
The garda agreed Kavanagh had expressed remorse as well as relief at being caught by gardai.
A forensic psychologist called by the defence told Mr Rahn that she had met with Kavanagh and assessed him to be at the lowest possible risk of re offending.
She said that during her meetings with Kavanagh he said he found out he was gay as a adolescent but suppressed his true orientation as he was afraid of rejection.
The witness said when he discovered an internet group for adolescents he joined out of interest. She said he was interested in chatting with young people who were the same age as him when he discovered he was gay and was amazed at how things had changed.
She said he knew he would not be allowed access to the group so pretended to be an adolescent and became an active member. He had private chats and started swapping images. He was pretending that the images were of him. He would try and stop but reactivate his account a few days later.
She said he felt accepted and had support he did not have in real life.
She told Mr Rahn that Kavanagh told her his interest in adults and there was no evidence he was engaging with children.