Saturday 24 February 2018

Man caught with videos of child pornography avoids jail

Stock picture
Stock picture

Conor Gallagher and Sonya McLean

A man who was caught with child pornography has been given a two year suspended sentence.

Michael Flanagan (31) was also caught with downloaded child abuse material a year earlier in his family home.

The accused's defence counsel said he had started downloading the material due to the breakup of his long term year relationship.

Bernard Condon SC presented a psychological report which stated Flanagan became more and more involved in video games and online fantasy worlds and started browsing the “dark net” for child pornography.

Flanagan of Spencer Place, North Strand, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of possessing child pornography in 2012 and 2013.

Judge Karen O'Connor had previously adjourned the case having heard evidence. She said at that time that the video of the child was of particular concern.

Today she said Flanagan “was supporting an industry which exploits, degrades and abuses vulnerable children who are very often from a disadvantaged background.”

The judge accepted that there was no evidence that Flanagan had shared the images. She acknowledged that this was his first offence and that he had been living in “self-imposed social isolation” at the time.

The judge also took into account a “detailed and helpful” probation report which she said was positive.

She suspended a two year term on condition that Flanagan engage with the Probation Service for 12 months, complete a sex offenders programme, a victim awareness programme and drug and alcohol awareness programme.

She also ordered that he keep the peace for two years and make his computer available to gardaí at any time.

Garret Baker BL, prosecuting, said at the previous sentence hearing that gardaí searched Flanagan's family home in Artane on November 13, 2012 where they found a external hard drive in an upstairs bedroom. Flanagan was not home at the time.

Examination of the hard drive revealed 18 child abuse images.

On September 6 the following year Flanagan was living on Vernon Avenue in Clontarf when gardaí again searched his home. They found a USB thumb drive which was later analysed by the Computer Crimes Unit.

It contained 35 images similar to the ones found on the hard drive. There was also a video file containing a serious sexual assault on a child. None of the subjects in the images have been identified.

Flanagan was arrested and admitted ownership of the files. He has minor previous convictions for drugs and public order offences.

Mr Condon said his client had been drinking almost daily since he was 16. He said before the offences he was in a four year relationship during which his partner was unfaithful.

The breakdown of the relationship led him to retreat into the online world, counsel said.

Counsel asked the judge to consider a non-custodial sentence. He said his client was now in a new committed relationship and his partner was aware of the charges.

He said the offence attracts a large amount of “public opprobrium”. Counsel noted that members of the press were in court and publication of the matter “will likely have severe consequences” for Flanagan.

“I think the court is entitled to take that into account,” Mr Condon added.

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