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Jail for man caught with images of child sexual abuse after material sent to undercover FBI agent

Dermot Whelan was sentenced to three years imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months.

Image: Laura Hutton via RollingNews.ie

A MAN WHO was caught in possession of hundreds of images of child sexual abuse after sending illicit material to an undercover FBI agent has been jailed for 18 months. 

Dermot Whelan (67) of The Crescent, Belgard Heights, Tallaght, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of child pornography on two computer devices at his address on 21 July 2014.

Whelan also pleaded guilty to knowingly distributing child pornography at his address on an unknown date between 20 October 2012 and 21 July 2014. He has no previous convictions.

Passing sentence today, Judge Elma Sheahan said the offences charged were very serious because they involved “the creation of a market for the abuse of children”. 

Judge Sheahan said that as this type of offending is hidden in nature, deterrence is an important factor alongside rehabilitation. She said the court must keep on notice “the unspeakable degradation committed on young children so that someone such as the accused can seek sexual gratification”.

She accepted that Whelan has been a carer for his wife and son in recent years. She said that the court struggled to understand how a man in his sixties could engage in offending that has at its origin the abuse of children.

Judge Sheahan sentenced Whelan to three years imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months on strict conditions including that he follow all directions of the Probation Service for two years post release.

At an earlier sentencing hearing, Detective Garda Trevor Scanlon told Pieter Le Vert BL, prosecuting, that the case originated with a member of the FBI working undercover and monitoring certain internet chat rooms which were suspected of being places where possessors of images of child sexual abuse congregated. 

Detective Garda Scanlon said that in 2012, the FBI agent placed an advertisement designed to appeal to people interested in images of child sexual abuse. The agent received a response from an email address which sent them 25 images of child sexual abuse.

The FBI agent contacted Yahoo who determined that the email address was located in Ireland. Gardaí obtained a search warrant for the accused’s address and seized a number of electronic devices. 

A laptop seized was found to have accessed a number of websites containing images of child sexual abuse. Three explicit child sexual abuse videos were discovered on the laptop. 

Also found on the laptop were 53 explicit images of child sexual abuse and 182 child exposure images. Further images of child sexual abuse were discovered on a desktop computer. 

In interview with gardaí, Whelan said he thought child sexual abuse was disgusting and that under no circumstances would he harm a child. He offered as an excuse for the material being found on the computers the fact that he had bought them second hand.

In a subsequent interview, Whelan admitted he had viewed child abuse and sent it on to others via email. He said that at the time he thought it was okay because he was not buying it or contributing to it. 

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Whelan said he was sexually aroused by the images. He said this was something he deeply regretted and that he has not viewed pornography of any kind since the offences.

Detective Garda Scanlon agreed with James Dwyer SC, defending, that the manner of possession was that the files were viewed and thus went into a “temp file”, meaning that only a minority of the images were actually downloaded.

Dwyer said his client has removed Wi-Fi from his home and has undergone therapy. He said that without admissions made by Whelan, it was likely his client would not have been charged with distributing child pornography.

Counsel submitted that this was less serious offending than was often seen in cases like this, particularly with regard to the volume of material involved. He said this may be a case that did not require his client’s immediate incarceration. 

Dwyer said his client has worked for over a year in a charity shop.

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Brion Hoban

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