Man had fascination with nude child pics of celebrities - Court
Paul Deering reports on the sentencing hearing of a 35-year-old man who downloaded over 250 child porn images over eight years
A tip-off from authorities in Luxembourg led to Gardaí searching the home of a young man and child porn images were found on a laptop and a computer hard drive.
On Tuesday last, Timothy Laffey (33) of Mullaghmore Road, Cliffoney appeared for sentencing before Judge Keenan Johnson at Mullingar Circuit Court sitting in Tullamore.
In June at Sligo Circuit Court he had pleaded guilty possessing 41 images of child pornography on a laptop and 213 images on an external hard drive at his address on September 24th 2010.
Members of the Gardaí attached to the Online Child Exploitation Unit at Harcourt Square in Dublin were contacted by authorities in Luxembourg regarding the downloading of images by an IP address in the defendant's name.
Gardai went to the defendant's home where he lived with his parents on September 24th 2010.
The court heard the reason for the delay in bringing the case was down to the fact that the specialist Garda unit which examines computers was under an immense work load.
The court heard that the defendant, who has a degree in computing had downloaded software in order to access the images.
Detective Garda Pauline O'Neill told Ms Dara Foynes BL (prosecuting) the initial interview with the defendant was at his house when Gardaí called and he made denials.
He subsequently attended formally at Sligo Garda Station voluntarily on September 27th and was co-operative and helpful.
Witness agreed with Ms Foynes that the images were of young girls aged between ten and 17 which had focussed on certain body parts.
Four computers were seized in all from the family home, two of which were located in the defendant's bedroom.
He admitted there were a lot of images on the hard drive of his computer and said he wished to be forthright.
Witness agreed with Ms Foynes that the defendant had a fascination with nude pictures of child stars which had been placed on porn sites. Some of the pictures were of particular child models.
Asked if he had any idea of the age of the girls, he told Gardaí, ten, eleven or twelve.
"I tried to avoid anything younger than that," he said.
"When I wasn't looking at images I would look for, my intention was mid teen but sometimes I ended up getting younger than that.
"I was looking specifically for mid teens of a certain person but I came across other images that I downloaded for some reason but I can't give you any reasons," he told Gardaí.
The defendant was aware of how young the children were and stated he was fooling himself into thinking it didn't matter that they were ten, eleven or 12 year old girls.
The defendant went into a lot of detail of how he managed to access the child porn sites.
A further interview took place on April 7th last in order to put further matters to him and he exercised his right to silence.
The defendant did not have any previous convictions and came from a very respectable family.
He had a BSc in computing IT support and no longer lived in Sligo.
He was working full time in the south of the country in IT support.
In reply to Mr Colm Smyth SC with Mr Keith O'Grady BL instructed by Ms Laura Spellman, solicitor, Det Garda O'Neill accepted the defendant had co-operated and gave technical assistance in how he had accessed the material.
It was accepted said the Garda that there had been a seven year wait before the defendant was charged.
Mr Smyth said this had an effect on him but that it was a blessing in one way in that he had availed of counselling services through TUSLA, rehabilitating himself in the process and never coming to Garda attention again.
Detective Garda Donagh Mannix from Garda Heaquarters said he had examined the defendant's Apple Mac laptopwhich had 41 child porn images and a computer hard drive which contained 41.
All of the children had their genital area exposed and were aged between 10 and 17.
The earliest image dated from February 2002 and the latest was from August 2010.
The material would be classed as being of a lesser scale than those involving sexual activity.
There was no question of sexual assault being involved in these images, witness agreed with Ms Foynes.
Witness also agreed that the defendant did not just 'stumble across' the material.
The defendant had accessed a network which was not easy to access and he also had to download two pieces of software.
The defendant did not pay for the images.
Laffey told the court he was doing his best to rehabilitate himself. He wanted to better himself in his life.
He attended counselling for the past seven years, the last appointment being last May. He had travelled to Donegal for these sessions and he had engaged actively with the service.
Laffey said he found the counsellor supportive and easy to talk to.
The defendant agreed that he was stupid to think it was victim less crime. He now realised it did involve victims of crime.
He didn't own a computer now, saying he didn't see the need for one.
He did have a smart phone and an Xbox.
Mr Smyth submitted in mitgation that the report from the defendant's counsellor was very faviourable. He had attended for some 50 appointments which was a significant commitment.A probation report was also very positive.
The defendant's mother, Caren, in evidence, agreed with Mr Smyth that the matter had been a shock but that she and her husband were totally supportive of their son.
"What happened was totally out of character," she said.
She said he had spent a lot of his time in his room playing computer games.
He had kept his head down since and was working.
She agreed that since the case came to court there had been some fairly harsh comment on social media which her son has also had to deal with.
Mr Smyth pleaded that Laffey had rehabilitated himself over the past seven years and had to deal with the adverse reaction and he had become somewhat isolated.
Passing sentence, Judge Johnson said the internet providers needed to be far more proactive in protesting children and they had a moral and legal responsibility to do so.
He said they needed to direct more resources into protecting chidlren.
He noted that the images in this case were ranked in the lower to mid range and did not involve any sexual activity, were not moving images and none had been paid for.
While one image was one too many, the quantity of images would also place them in lower rank of such offending having dealt with cases where thousands would have been involved, said the Judge.
The defendant had co-operated and gave Gardaí far more information than they would have been able to gain themselves. He was also genuinely remorseful.
Judge Johnson said he had to send out a message that anyone convicted of such offences would suffer significant sanction and this defendant had already done so with the matters hanging over him for eight years.
He said the defendant possibly had a case in terms of delay in bringing the case but this was through no fault of the Gardaí who simply didn't have the resources.
The defendant had undergone as proactive an engagement in rehabilitation he had seen in these type of cases, added the Judge who noted the probation service had place the defendant at a moderate risk of re-offending.
The defendant's reputation could not be restored and that, in itself was a huge punishment and being on the sex offenders' register for five years was also a significant punishment, said the Judge.
He imposed a nine month jail term, suspended for two years on his entering a bond to be of good behaviour for two years.