Monday 12 November 2018

Garda found guilty of possessing child pornography

Joseph O'Connor (58) at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Pic Collins Courts
Joseph O'Connor (58) at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Pic Collins Courts

Declan Brennan

A jury has convicted a garda of possessing images and videos of children being subjected to sexual acts.

Joseph O'Connor (58) of west Dublin had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to five counts of possession of child pornography at his home on dates between July 30 and August 2, 2011.

During a search of his home on August 2, gardaí investigating other allegations seized a laptop. A subsequent analyse of the laptop found videos in the computer's “recycle bin” depicting boys under the age of ten being subjected to sexual acts.

Two videos depicted boys under 17 being subjected to sexual acts with a male adult. There were also multiple copies of 16 different images of children sexually exposed or being subjected to sexual acts.

After a little over two hours deliberating, the jury of ten men and two women returned unanimous verdicts of guilty on four counts. The jury acquitted him of one count, which dealt with 56 duplicates of two images.

He was found guilty of possessing the two originals of these images, which were found in a computer folder named “Spanked Boys”.

He was also convicted of possessing 15 explicit videos of child sex around August 2011. Finally, he was convicted of possessing 56 images and 42 videos of children being subjected to explicit sexual acts and 41 images of children being sexually exposed.

Most of these files were found in the “unallocated cluster” space of the hard drive. This area is where files are placed after deletion from the “recycle bin” and is inaccessible to the user without the use of specialist software.

Paul Carroll SC, defending, said that O'Connor is a long term serving garda and has been suspended since these matters arose. He asked for time for his client to be able to gather reports for the court for the sentence hearing.

Judge Elma Sheahan thanked the jury for their service. She remanded O'Connor on continuing bail to next Monday, November 12.

After his arrest O'Connor told gardaí that he had never seen the material before and denied downloading it. He said somebody else must have downloaded the files.

He said he believed that a man, Patryk (sic) Farrell, who came to his home for sex, days before the laptop was seized, had corrupted his computer.

Closing the State's case, Alice Fawsitt SC told the jury there was no evidence of any virus on the laptop and no evidence of anything that might have happened to it the weekend before it was seized.

Counsel for O'Connor told the jurors they must consider if it was possible that the files were put on the computer by somebody else. He said O'Connor told gardaí that hundreds of men had come back to his home for sex and that any of them could freely use his laptop.

Mr Carroll said that on the day after they met for sex at O'Connor's home, Mr Farrell texted O'Connor and told him he was bruised and that he was going to gardaí and would “destroy” him.

O'Connor went to gardaí to report that Mr Farrell had stolen his garda ID, handcuffs and cash from his home. Counsel asked if it was reasonable that his client knew Mr Farrell had made allegations to gardaí and didn't destroy his laptop knowing there was illegal material on it.

He said the prosecution had failed to prove that Mr Farrell or the “hundreds of men” going to O'Connor's home didn't have something to do with putting the material on the laptop.

During legal argument, in the absence of the jury, the court heard that gardaí went to O’Connor’s home in August 2011 to investigate allegations of assault by Mr Farrell. They seized the laptop in connection with this investigation and subsequently found the illegal images on it.

The jury were told that Mr Farrell’s allegations were also forwarded to the Garda Ombudsman but Mr Farrell did not co-operate with this investigation and it was dropped.

The jury also learned that an internal investigation by Inspector Colm Fox, since deceased, concluded there was no basis for the allegations of false imprisonment, rape or sexual assault.

In his report Inspector Fox said the physical injuries alleged by Mr Farrell were consequences of sexual acts. Mr Farrell is also since deceased.

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