Sligo man (35) is sen­tenced for pos­ses­sion of child porn

He down­loaded more than 250 child porn images

The Sligo Champion - - FRONT PAGE - By PAUL DEERING

A 35-year-old man who had a fas­ci­na­tion with nude pic­tures of celebri­ties when they were chil­dren has been given a sus­pended jail term.

A tip-off from au­thor­i­ties in Lux­em­bourg led to Gar­daí search­ing the home of Ti­mothy Laf­fey (pic­tured) and over 250 close up images of young naked girls were found on a lap­top and a com­puter hard drive.

Laf­fey ap­peared be­fore the Cir­cuit Court in Tul­lam­ore for sen­tenc­ing, the case hav­ing been ad­journed out of the list to there at the last sit­ting of the Cir­cuit Court in Sligo. Laf­fey from Clif­foney pleaded guilty to pos­ses­sion of child pornog­ra­phy.

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 (35) 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 to pos­sess­ing 41 images of child pornog­ra­phy on a lap­top and 213 images on an ex­ter­nal hard drive at his address on Septem­ber 24 th 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.

Gar­daí went to the de­fen­dant’s home where he lived with his par­ents on Septem­ber 24 th 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 27 th and was co-op­er­a­tive and help­ful.

The 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.

The 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 7 th 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.

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 Gar- da, that there had been a seven year wait be­fore the de­fen­dant was charged.

Mr Smyth said this had an ef­fect on his client 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 Head­quar­ters 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, the wit­ness agreed with Ms Foynes.

The 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 a vic­tim­less 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 mit­i­ga­tion that the re­port from the de­fen­dant’s coun­sel­lor was very favourable. 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 pro­tect­ing chil­dren and they had a moral and le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity to do so.

He said they needed to di­rect more re­sources into pro­tect­ing chil­dren.

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 placed 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.

Judge Keenan John­son

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