Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The court heard that Fewer first came to the attention of Waterford Gardaí back in March 2011 after he was identified as part of an international investigation called “Operation Rescue”.

A WIT lecturer has been sentenced to a year in prison for possession of child pornography. Thomas Gregory Fewer (51) of Corballymore, Dunmore East, appeared before Waterford Circuit Criminal Court last week charged with possession of 27 images of child pornography and one written story about sex between two 13 year old boys, in a case that goes back almost 10 years.

The court heard that Fewer first came to the attention of Waterford Gardaí back in March 2011 after he was identified as part of an international investigation called “Operation Rescue”, which was led by the UK’s national centre for child protection with the assistance of Europol, the US immigration and customs enforcement agency, and police from Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Canada. It identified 670 suspects – including Fewer – and 230 abused or at-risk children globally.

Warrants were received for searches of Fewer’s home in Dunmore East as well as his office in WIT where equipment, including hard drives, were seized. Inspector Siobhan Keating from Waterford Gardaí detailed to the court how Fewer was an admin of a now defunct internet site called ‘Boilover.net”, which was used by people who shared a common attraction to young boys. Fewer was using the username “rawspank” to chat with other users of the site.

The court heard that he wasn’t arrested until May of 2017 and the long wait was down to a delay in computer analysing of the hard drives and other equipment seized from Fewer’s home and place of work. Inspector Keating said that Fewer had no previous convictions and lived an “isolated and lonely existence”. At the time, he was caring for his elderly mother and was a “sexually frustrated” homosexual man who was using this website to meet others and attempt to fulfil his attraction with minors. He was apparently depressed and suicidal at the time of using this website, which was partly brought on by a frustration over not finishing his PhD. Fewer was placed on administrative leave as soon as he was formally charged in 2018. The court heard that he was fully cooperative with the investigation and handed over six passwords pertaining to emails and websites.

Inspector Keating said that the images that Fewer possessed were measured in four levels of severity between 1 and 4 – with one being the most serious. She said that 22 of the images were rated 1 and five were rated 2.

In delivering his sentence, Judge Eugene O’Kelly said that there were a number of aggravating factors in this case. He said that the fact that Fewer was an admin on the Boilover.net site, it showed that he had a deliberate involvement in this crime. He said that he was clearly high up in the network and even though the quantity of images, at 27, wasn’t as high as other cases, they were of a “high level of seriousness”.

From an initial sentence of 2.5 years, he reduced the sentence by a year because Fewer pleaded guilty at the earliest possible time and cooperated fully with Gardaí. He took consideration of the fact that he had previously led a respectable life and was of good character, had no previous convictions, was caring for his mother, was engaging in monthly counselling and will likely lose his job as a result of his actions. He then suspended the final six months of the sentence, leaving a net sentence of one year in prison.

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