March 2019

Man who had ‘horrendous’ child porn images spared jail

‘You’re 16, you’re a paedophile, you don’t want to hurt anyone what do you do now?’

That was the internet search term which swayed a judge’s decision to not send a 28-year-old man to prison for accessing ‘horrendous images’ of child sexual abuse

Stephen Finan, formerly of Cranmore pleaded guilty to the possession of 440 images of child sexual abuse images on September 20th, 2014.

Sligo Circuit Court had previously heard that 304 of these images were deemed ‘Category 1’ images, meaning the children were engaging in, or observing sexual acts.

Children in these images ranged in age of two years old, to six years old.

An Alienware device used mostly for gaming contained 440 images and one image was contained on an Acer laptop.

At the sentencing hearing last Thursday, Judge Francis Comerford reflected on evidence heard, that Finan, a father of one, was visibly distressed when gardaí arrived to his parents’ home and expressed that he was glad they were there as he ‘wanted it to stop’.

The Judge described this admission to gardaí as ‘a significant factor in the case’.

Judge Comerford noted that 304 images were of the highest scale and 136 were category 2, meaning the children in the images were not being interfered with.

He said search terms that Finan had used to try to find images were also found on the devices and did put matters at a serious level.

The range of offending when images were downloaded ranged between May 2014 and September 2014, with some traces of search history in early 2014.

The Judge highlighted that Finan did not pass the images on to another party and did delete the images prior to gardaí calling in 2014.

Referring to the fact there was no password on either device, Judge Comerford said it ‘wasn’t a sophisticated operation’

One month before his apprehension, an internet search entitled; ‘You’re 16, you’re a paedophile, you don’t want to hurt anyone what do you do now?’.

Judge Comerford said the search term showed an indication of insight from Finan that he was engaging in criminal behaviour that he did not wish to continue doing so.

A report from John Stack of COSC, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence was described by the Judge as ‘impressive’.

The court heard Finan had attended 48 appointments with the service since August 2015.

“He is not paying lip service, or to get a favourable report, but trying to stay away from re-offending,” said Judge Comerford, adding that there was a likelihood of this engagement decreasing the chance of future offending behaviour.

Speaking in relation to Finan’s family being harassed as a result of matters, Judge Comerford said though people rightly found his behaviour wrong, they should have left the matter in the court’s hands.

He added that these offences fell at the higher end of the scale for a prison sentence.

Noting mitigating factors, such as a guilty plea, the immediate response to gardaí, his indication of wanting to find his way out of the behaviour and his strenuous efforts to rehabilitate,

Judge Comerford said he had a strong degree of reluctance to impose a custodial sentence.

“I am swayed by the attempt in August 2014 as some effort to turn away from the crime and his reply to gardaí of ‘I wanted this to stop’.”

An 18 month sentence was imposed, suspended for a period of three years.

Conditions for the suspension included to be under the supervision of the Probation Service, to furnish continued engagement with Cosc to the Probation Service and to keep the peace.

An application was made to the court by An Garda Síochána for the forfeiture of the Alienware device to the State so it could be used for training and research purposes.

An application for the destruction of the Acer laptop was also made.

Finan has been on the Sex Offender’s Register since his plea of guilty to the charge.