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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Ex-children's dept civil servant spared jail over 60,000 child porn images

Brendan Phelan was handed a suspended sentence for possession of child porn images found by gardai
Brendan Phelan was handed a suspended sentence for possession of child porn images found by gardai

A retired senior civil servant in the Department of Health and Children, who was caught in possession of nearly 60,000 child pornography images and videos, has avoided jail.

Brendan Phelan (66) was yesterday given a suspended three-year sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after he pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography at his home on March 26, 2013.

Phelan, of Merrion Grove, Stillorgan Road, Blackrock, Co Dublin, admitted to gardai that he had a "fair bit" of child pornography relating to young boys when his home was raided five years ago.

He is a retired principal officer with the Department of Health and Children, the court heard.

Naturist

Most of the images and clips were "naturist", the court heard, but others showed pre-pubescent boys engaged in sexual behaviour.

Sentencing Phelan, Judge Martin Nolan noted that there was an "unfortunate delay" in bringing the case to court due to a lack of resources within the garda unit.

As a result, Phelan was only charged last year.

Since his home was raided in 2013, he has attended counselling and rehabilitated himself, with a report handed into court showing he is at a low risk of re-offending.

Handing down the suspended sentence, Judge Nolan said the conviction would bring shame on Phelan and his family. He noted he would be on the sex offenders' register.

The judge took into account a number of mitigating factors, including the nature of the images - the majority of which were placed in the lowest category of seriousness by gardai - his co-operation, and the fact that Phelan did not produce or distribute the material elsewhere.

Garda Peter Woods told Eoin Lawlor BL, prosecuting, that gardai received a tip-off from Canadian officials in relation to clients who had bought child porn from a website under their investigation.

As a result, gardai raided Phelan's home in March 2013, where they seized his computer, a laptop and five external hard drives, among other equipment. A suitcase of DVDs found in Phelan's bedroom was also seized.

When the material was eventually examined four years later, gardai discovered 58,585 child pornography images and 1,046 movies.

The majority of these files were "naturist" and concentrated on young boys' genitalia, Gda Woods said.

Others were of a more serious nature.

Psychological

Phelan readily admitted to gardai that he had started looking at child pornography "a long time ago".

Defence counsel Philipp Rahn BL said his client referred himself to psychological services for rehabilitation in the aftermath of the garda raid.

He said Phelan does not appear to have had any romantic or sexual relationships throughout his life.

Phelan is extremely remorseful for his behaviour. He used the images only for himself and did not produce any or send them on to anyone else, defence counsel added.

When approached by the Herald for comment at his south Dublin home, Phelan replied "no, sorry", shutting his front door when asked if he regretted his actions.

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