Monday, November 08, 2021

Isabel Hayes and Fiona Ferguson

A grandfather who engaged in an online sexual fantasy with a stranger about the rape of his two granddaughters, then aged seven and two years old, has been jailed for a year.

The 65-year-old Dublin man, who can’t be named to protect the identity of the children involved, engaged in a Skype chat conversation with a Canadian going by the name of ‘Bill’ about raping the children, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

The conversation was found on the man’s laptop by gardaí who searched his house after they became aware of child abuse material in the home. Two copies of a single child abuse image were also recovered from the man’s laptop.

The man pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly possessing child pornography and one count of knowingly distributing child pornography on dates in October 2017.

Skype conversation

Judge Melanie Greally said the Skype conversation between the two men had been an extremely graphic and disturbing exchange and said the uploading of non-pornographic pictures of his own grandchildren had been an extreme breach of trust.

Judge Greally set a headline sentence of three years and took into account the contents of a psychological and probation reports before the court and noted the accused had a very difficult and unstable early life. She noted his role as a carer for his wife who is highly dependent on him.

Remorse

She said he appeared to have been engaging in the offending as a form of escapism and that he had become isolated and overwhelmed by his circumstances. She noted his remorse and willingness to engage in therapeutic supports. He has been assessed as at low risk of reoffending.

Judge Greally imposed concurrent sentences totalling two years and suspended the final year on conditions including 12 months probation supervision and engagement in victim focused work.

Garda Simon Halpin told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that on the day in question, the man engaged in a Skype conversation with a person named ‘Bill’ in Canada.

The pair discussed their “inclinations of a paedophiliac nature” and outlined sexual experiences with children they said they had had, the court heard.

A copy of the conversation was handed in to Judge Greally, but not read out in court.

The court heard the man then sent pictures of his two granddaughters to ‘Bill’.

The man has no previous convictions. When interviewed by gardai, he made limited admissions, the court heard.

World upended

Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, said the man worked hard to provide for his family for many years and that “his world as he knew it was upended in one moment” when gardaí arrived to search his house.

He said he helped care for his wife, who has health issues, and that despite the charges against him, they are “rock solid as a couple”.

Mr O’Higgins said that the conversation with ‘Bill’ was “all a fantasy” and that the man had not carried out any of the sexual activities that he described.

He said the man was “reclusive” and had limited insight into his offending, but he was willing to engage in treatment. “He is not someone who is ever going to come before the court again,” Mr O’Higgins said.

The man is “deeply ashamed” of what he did and there are “serious ongoing consequences” for him as a result of his actions, he added.

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