Sentence of child abuser caught with paedophile 'manual' unduly lenient, appeal hears

Paul Neilan

Reporter:

Paul Neilan

Sentence of child abuser caught with paedophile 'manual' unduly lenient, appeal hears

A five-year sentence imposed on a man who sexually abused a boy after "ingratiating himself" into the victim's family and who was found in possession of tens of thousands of child abuse images and a 127-page paedophile "manual" was too lenient, the State has said.

The Court of Appeal on Thursday heard the man also spent three years in a Philippine jail when his passport was revoked after he travelled there in 2015.  

In April of last year, the male was sentenced at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for two counts of sexually assaulting a boy, sexual exploitation of a boy and producing child pornography between 2011 and 2013.

He further pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography for distribution within in the State on July 11, 2006 and to possessing child porn images, videos, texts and documents on computer media on December 9, 2013.

Gardaí found over 55,000 images, more than 6,000 videos and almost 4,500 text files containing child pornography on the man’s computer, external hard drive and mobile phone at his Dublin home.

The court heard that some 13,000 of the images depicted children, mostly pre-teenagers, engaged in sexual activity with adults.

At his sentencing, Judge Melanie Greally said that 19 videos showed “child abuse at its most extreme,” because of the “unimaginable depravity” of the sexual acts being perpetrated on the children and the extremely young age of some of the victims.

Some of the children being abused in the videos and images were babies as young as five months old.

“In many cases, the child who’s being abused can be heard crying,” said Judge Greally.

Some of the images showed the accused straddled the child, who was naked from the waist down.

Detective Garda James Neary told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that investigators at the accused’s home found a 127-page “manual” on how to approach and sexually exploit children.

Det Gda Neary said that although the guide contained no indecent images, it had a “breakdown” of the steps used to meet and engage in sexual activity with children.

On Thursday, the Court of Appeal heard that the 43-year-old male, who cannot be identified in order to protect his victim, spent three years in a prison in the Philippines after his passport was revoked, before he was eventually deported back to Ireland to face charges.

Ms Cathleen Noctor SC, for the State, said the appeal was based on the undue leniency of the sentence for possession for distribution of child pornography, production of child pornography, sexual assault and the sexual exploitation of a child.

Ms Noctor said that while two victims had been identified in the case, it was reasonable to infer that there were "possibly 10,000" unidentified victims on images, videos and text files that had "cataclysmic harm" inflicted on them.

She said that the trial judge erred in identifying a headline sentence of six years for the two sexual assaults and for the production of child pornography, when the maximum sentence is 14 years.  

The offences had been identified by the trial judge as being in the "upper-middle" range of offending, said Ms Noctor, who said that the headline sentence was "simply too low".

Counsel said a further sentence for distribution was placed in the "upper" range of offending but had also been given a six-year headline sentence. "It was given a headline sentence of six years, yet it is on a higher scale. Six years cannot be the headline in the mid-upper and in the upper range," she said.

Ms Noctor said that a charge of sexual exploitation of a child had not been identified in range but had been given a seven-and-a-half year headline sentence, which she said amounted to an "error in principle".

She added that some offences committed on bail were an aggravating factor that had not been adequately reflected in the headline sentencing.

Counsel said that the male had an "enormous" quantity of child pornography in various types and categories.

She said that he was in possession of 19,000 images classed to be in the most serious Category 1, 30,000 in Category 2, and was in possession of digital documents containing sex stories fantasising about children.

The abuse of the boy, identified only by two letters, was carried out over a 19-month period between 2011 and 2013, she said.

The trial had heard that the male began a mutual friendship with the child’s mother as they both worked together and that he had “ingratiated himself” into the woman’s family.

The male was a regular visitor to the woman’s home and “lavished attention and gifts” on her ten-year-old son before sexually assaulting him at the child’s grandmother’s birthday in a Dublin hotel.

The trial heard that the accused then continued to sexually assault the child over two years whenever he was left alone with the boy.

Ms Noctor said that after gardaí obtained a search warrant and seized items at the man's home, the contents of some of them had to be identified by the child's mother.

Ms Noctor said that in mitigation the trial judge had taken "significant account" of a three-year period the man spent in jail in the Philippines

However, counsel said, the male was in prison there "as a result of his own actions and not as a result of any actions in Ireland - it has nothing to do with this particular case".

Counsel said that gardaí took the male's passport during a search in December 2013 and that male applied for a new one, telling the Department of Foreign Affairs that he had lost his. He then travelled to the Philippines but had his passport revoked in 2015, while there, and was detained as an undocumented alien until his eventual deportation, via the UK, in 2018.

Ms Noctor said there was no extradition treaty with the Philippines and that he was not entitled to any significant credit for being detained there.

The judge also erred, said Mr Noctor, in the sentence-structure in that it failed to adequately reflect the seriousness of the complaints before her.

Responding, Mr Morgan Shelley BL, for the male, said that while his client was in jail in the Philippines it may have appeared to him that he was awaiting extradition but it was actually a case of deportation. 

Mr Shelley said that his client's sentence was not backdated at the trial court because he could not ask for it to be as it was a matter of an invalidated passport.

Counsel said his client was in the Philippines on a valid visa and passport, albeit that he should not have been there, and was left "between two stools" because the Philippine authorities wanted to deport his client but would not pay for it after the male showed up on an Interpol list.

Mr Shelley said that the Irish authorities would also not pay for the €900 flight his client needed to return here because they "did not want to set a precedent" in doing so, even though gardaí had been sent to the Philippines to meet with the male.

Mr Shelley said that the trial judge took the "horrific" time in detention into account and treated it as being "terrible but of his own making".

"Were I to find myself in a situation of distress, and all that was needed to save me from horrendous violence was €900, I would hope that they would do it for me," said Mr Shelley, who acknowledged that it was morally wrong for his client to leave Ireland.

Mr Shelley said that the boy was identified because his client made gardaí aware of the identity in order to exonerate his housemate.

Counsel said that his client pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and assisted further investigations by giving gardaí his passwords to a website, containing a child-porn forum, at which the male was a moderator.

He said that his client showed insight into his offending, showed "clear remorse" for his actions and had an impeccable prison working record.

The trial judge, said Mr Shelley, had taken into account that his client was on bail when committing some offences and said that the categorisation and headline setting for his client had been "clearly justified".

Mr Justice John Edwards, presiding, said that the court would reserve judgement in the case.