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‘Kieran Creaven deserves life in prison because he’s given those children a life sentence’

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Sting operation: Kieran Creaven was confronted by members of Predator Exposure in Leeds. Photo: Mark Condren

Sting operation: Kieran Creaven was confronted by members of Predator Exposure in Leeds. Photo: Mark Condren

Sting operation: Kieran Creaven was confronted by members of Predator Exposure in Leeds. Photo: Mark Condren

When former RTÉ sports producer Kieran Creaven was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting a child, child exploitation and child pornography in Ireland, the UK and the Philippines, it marked the end of a long garda investigation into the 59-year-old.

Gardaí working with international police agencies including Interpol managed to identify and rescue some of the children sexually abused by Creaven.

Detective Superintendent Barry Walsh, of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, said: “In this particular case the Online Child Exploitation Unit within the Garda National Protective Services Bureau worked with our colleagues in Interpol and police in the Philippines to identify a number of child sexual abuse victims who were subsequently repatriated and placed in safety.”

He said it showed there was no “safe haven” for abusers.

During a sentencing hearing last month, Detective Garda Johanna Doyle said she “begged” Creaven to reveal the identity of one girl he sexually assaulted in the Philippines.

The court heard he remained silent during garda interviews in 2019 and only this year attempted to help detectives. The girl has still not been located.

Det Supt Walsh also warned young people of the dangers of social media and to report any concerns they have about potential sexual exploitation to gardaí.

“It’s a notable feature of this case that much of the sexual exploitation was perpetrated via the mainstream social media platforms,” he said.

“While social media represents an important role in our current society, it’s clear that there is inherent dangers and risks for all people – adults and young people – and I think it is very important that people are aware of this particular circumstance.”

Creaven’s crimes were not initially exposed through dogged police work. Instead, it was a four-month sting operation by a controversial group of volunteers in the UK called Predator Exposure, who pose as children online and wait for people like Creaven to get in touch.

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If an adult starts to groom the ‘decoy’ child and send or seek messages or photos of an adult or sexual nature, the group records the details.

If the adult tries to set up a meeting with the child, the group will then arrive at the agreed meeting point, confront the adult and detain them on the spot until the police arrive.

In Creaven’s case, this happened in November 2017. He turned up in Leeds city centre and waited for what he thought was a 13-year-old girl he had engaged with and sent pictures of his penis to. He was going to take her to a hotel he had booked into for sexual activity.

Instead, he was met by members of Predator Exposure, who broadcast the sting operation live on social media and contacted West Yorkshire Police.

When the police came, Predator Exposure handed over all their records of interactions with Creaven. He was arrested and charged with sexually grooming a girl.

The ‘girl’ never existed in reality, but it was Creaven’s intent that mattered.

In March 2018 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison in the UK, but was released after 10 months with remission and returned to Ireland.

But that was not the end of the investigations into Creaven.

After he was arrested in Leeds, gardaí began their own investigations. They uncovered a litany of sex crimes perpetrated in Ireland, the UK and the Philippines between 2014 and 2017.

This resulted in him being arrested in October 2019 and a file being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

He was charged last year with a number of offences relating to child exploitation, sexual assault and possession of child abuse material.

Creaven, of Adelaide Street, Dún Laoghaire, pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including four counts of child exploitation, two of sexually assaulting a child and four of child pornography.

He never took bail and has been in custody since.

At a sentencing hearing last month, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told Creaven had filmed himself sexually abusing a child in the Philippines.

In a letter of apology, Creaven, who has lost his marriage as well as his job with RTÉ, said he was glad he was arrested because it pulled him back from a “dark and disturbing spiral”.

Det Gda Doyle said Creaven’s Dublin home was searched in 2017 when he was arrested in the UK and a number of devices were seized. Gardaí also made enquiries with online companies including Facebook, Skype and PayPal.

Two videos were found on a memory card, which showed Creaven filming himself sexually assaulting a girl between the ages of 10 and 12 in the Philippines in 2014.

At times another adult took over the recording.

Creaven was identifiable by his “distinctive tattoos” and his face was clearly visible in parts of the videos shot on October 12 and 16, 2014, and involved the same child.

A baby under the age of one was present on the first occasion and could be seen lying on the same bed as the child Creaven was abusing. At one point, Creaven says: “Oh God, she is beautiful.”

He also asked the child to look at him as he sexually assaulted her.

Gardaí found records of a Skype chat between Creaven and an account in the Philippines in November 2017.

During this chat, Creaven paid €40 to view a child’s private parts. He later told the adult operating the account he was having trouble with his credit card and he asked for her address to send cash.

Gardaí discovered Creaven also engaged in sexual conversations with three children on Facebook in Ireland in June and July, 2017.

He told one of the children: “After seeing your pic again, I’m a fair few years older than you, so probably shouldn’t be messaging you. My intentions are 100pc naughty, ha.”

He sent the children sexual images, graphic stories and videos. One of the girls – then aged 16 – was in the care of Tusla at the time, the court heard.

A USB key that was seized from Creaven in the UK was found to contain images and videos of child abuse, including one involving a two-year-old.

There were no victim impact statements from the children in court.

Creaven’s legal team said he was remorseful and has shown insight into his offending.

They added that he has been receiving therapy and is seeing a psychologist to examine how he fell into very significant criminal behaviour and sexualised criminal behaviour.

The UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said it does not endorse the online ‘vigilante’ groups – a term the groups themselves hate – and will not work with them.

“Unlike our officers, these groups don’t offer any protection to victims, their evidence is often poor and some do it as cover for extortion and blackmail. There are legitimate ways for the public to support the police and share information,” it said.

Police have nonetheless used information gathered by the groups to secure convictions, but advise people to pass information to the authorities, rather than taking the law into their own hands.

The attitude of An Garda Síochána reflects that of the NPCC, with a spokesperson expressing concern over the potential for violence in interactions with their targets and over the potential to affect future criminal proceedings.

While a couple of groups sprang up in Ireland using similar techniques to Predator Exposure shortly after the Creaven case made headlines, they have largely gone quiet since.

Phil Hoban (44) clearly remembers the night he and his team at Predator Exposure (PE) confronted Creaven in Leeds, surrounded him and called the police.

“He arranged to meet what he thought was the teenage girl outside the Queens Hotel in Leeds. He was going to take her back to the hotel and the next day he was going to take her to a Leeds United football game,” Mr Hoban told the Irish Independent.

But when the group made themselves known, “he was shocked, he knew his world was falling apart”.

“It opened a can of worms. People say, ‘Leave it to the police’, but if we left it to the police he could still be doing what he was doing now,” Mr Hoban said.

“When we found out what he had done in the past, we had tears in our eyes, and we thought, ‘Thank God we caught him’.”

Mr Hoban noted that Creaven is saying he is glad he was caught and wants to address his problems.

“He’s only saying that because he’s been caught. He’s only saying it so it will go better for him in court,” he said.

“How are the children going to address their problems? Their lives are ruined.

“The man deserves life in jail because he’s given those children a life sentence.”


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