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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland
Declan Costello

Man handed suspended sentence after being found in possession of child abuse images

Costello was not involved in the production or sharing of any of the pornographic material found.

AN IT WORKER who was caught with child abuse images at his home after being spotted acting suspiciously while filming people at a “family fun day” has been given a suspended sentence.

Declan Costello (40) was reported by organisers of the event and gardaí found non-pornographic images of young people on his phone.

A later search of his home recovered equipment which was found to contain a total of 176 images and three video files of child sexual abuse or children with their genitalia exposed.

Costello was not involved in the production or sharing of any of the pornographic material found.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard some images included children as young as three or four being sexually abused by adults and one depicted a child performing oral sex while a knife was held to their forehead.

Costello, of Cherryfield Drive, Walkinstown, Dublin pleaded guilty to possession of child abuse images on a date between January 2013 and August 2014.

Costello, a married man with no children, has no previous convictions. A report outlined Costello did not meet the diagnostic criteria for paedophilia and was at low risk of re-offending.

Judge Martin Nolan noted the electronic equipment involved had taken four years to be examined “due to not enough personnel or equipment or resources” in the relevant garda departments.

He said Costello had made full admissions, pleaded guilty, co-operated with the gardaí, had no other convictions prior to or since this offence, had accepted his wrongdoing and had taken steps to address his issues. He noted “mostly optimistic” reports before the court.

“The mitigation is clear, but this is not a victimless crime because children have to be abused some place or another for the production of this material,” said Judge Nolan.

He noted the legal precedents indicated that where there was simple possession of this material without aggravating circumstances such as production or sharing, then a non-custodial sentence should be considered.

Judge Nolan imposed a two-and-a half year sentence which he suspended on conditions including two years’ probation supervision.

Garda Aisling Dillon said gardaí were alerted by the organisers of a family fun day at Wolfe Tone Park who said there was a man acting suspiciously and recording people in the area.

Garda Dillon agreed with Pieter Le Vert BL, defending, that Costello was nervous when she approached him and on examining his phone she saw non-pornographic pictures of young people from the family fun day and others walking around Dublin.

Costello admitted he had been filming at the event and said he got sexual pleasure from later watching the videos of people in public. He denied showing the recordings to anyone else.

“I am really sorry I did it,” Costello told gardaí. “Sorry for all of it.”

Garda Dillon agreed with Mr Le Vert that in relation to the pornographic material later found, Costello had explained to gardaí how he accessed it and handed over his passwords.

Mr Le Vert handed a forensic psychologist report into court and referred Judge Nolan to “sensitive material” which was not read in open court. He said Costello had immediately started group and individual therapy in September 2014.

He said it had taken his client some time in therapy to disclose to his wife and mother the background outlined in the report handed into court and what had happened in the past.

Counsel asked the court to also take into account that his client had co-operated fully with gardai, the number of images involved and the length of time since the offence.

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