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No jail for abuser with 'fake' porn

A CONVICTED child abuser who viewed computer-generated child pornography has received a suspended jail sentence after a judge said the images did not harm or exploit children.

Traces of images showing children involved in sexually explicit activity were found on computer hard drives belonging to John O'Neill (54).

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the 25 images didn't depict real children, but were very graphic.

O'Neill had found the images on the internet using search terms "porn-toons" and "3D Incest". He told gardai he viewed them to get sexual gratification without involving children.

Odious

Judge Martin Nolan said that if the material used real children or if O'Neill had paid for it, he would be imposing a "reasonably severe" sentence.

He said in this case no actual children were involved and that O'Neill had not paid for the images. He said these facts put the case at the lower end of seriousness, adding: "This material, no matter how odious, did not harm or exploit children."

O'Neill, of Moyne Road, Ranelagh, Dublin, pleaded guilty to possession of 25 images of child pornography at his flat on dates between October 24, 2008 and January 10, 2009.

He previously received a 10-year prison term for counts of rape, indecent assault and sexual assault of minors. This sentence was reviewed seven years later and O'Neill released on five years' probation.

Noting O'Neill's guilty plea, Judge Nolan suspended a sentence of two years.

The judge said that the delay in bringing a prosecution had had a "traumatic effect" on O'Neill. The court previously heard that on one occasion gardai had to take O'Neill to hospital after finding he had made a suicide attempt.

Bored

Detective Garda Mark O'Neill told Una Ni Raifeartaigh, prosecuting, that the images found on O'Neill's computer showed graphic depictions of sexual activity with speech bubbles that left no doubt that the images were of children.

When confronted with the images, O'Neill said he viewed them because he was bored and found them sexually gratifying.

He said he didn't think there was any harm in it and he thought it was a safe way of getting gratification without involving children.

Judge Nolan said: "It could be argued that he is further degenerating himself by looking at these pictures and rendering himself more dangerous to the public. That's difficult to prove one way or another."

The court heard he is a registered sex offender, is being monitored and has undergone post release treatment.

Remy Farrell, defending, said O'Neill's paedophilia is "a life-long issue". He argued that these offences were at the lowest end of the spectrum because O'Neill had only viewed the images without saving them.

hnews@herald.ie