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Dublin: 0°C Friday 22 January 2021

Dublin man who used Snapchat and Skype to exploit young girls jailed for 9.5 years

The final two years were suspended by the judge.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

A DUBLIN MAN who possessed thousands of child porn images and coerced young girls to send him sexually graphic pictures and videos of themselves has been jailed for seven and a half years.

Matthew Horan (26) used Skype, Snapchat, Instagram and Kik, an anonymous instant messaging application, to send and receive child porn images from six identified child users in Ireland and nine unknown users around the world.

Judge Martin Nolan handed down a nine-and-a-half year sentence but suspended the last two years.

A forensic examination of Horan’s computer uncovered recorded Skype calls between him and two nine year-old-girls, both individually and together. The recordings included footage of these girls engaging in graphic sexual acts.

Horan also took part in sexually explicit text conversations with the girls, during which there would be an exchange of photos.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Horan would use Kik to share child porn images and videos with unidentified users from around the world, most of whom claimed to be young teenagers.

He threatened to share an 11-year-old girl’s nude images to her social media if she didn’t send him more graphic photos.

In the text exchange between them, this girl repeatedly told Horan that she would kill herself. He then continued to coerce her to send more images, the court heard.

Horan, of St John’s Crescent, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty to a count each of sexually exploiting two girls within the State on dates between 1 April and 23 November 2014.

He pleaded guilty to two more counts of sexually exploiting a child and one count of distributing child porn on dates in 2015. He further pleaded guilty to possessing child porn at his address on 11 July 2015.

He pleaded guilty to three further counts of sexually exploiting female children through Snapchat and Instagram in the State on dates between 21 May 2015 and 7 July 2016.

He also pleaded guilty to possessing child porn on a Sony mobile phone at his home on 7 July 2016. He has no previous convictions.

Judge’s comments

Judge Martin Nolan suspended the last two years of the nine-and-a-half year sentence.

He said that Horan had a very unhealthy, insidious and debased sexual interest in children.

He said the crimes were all committed for Horan’s indulgence and pleasure and Horan had exploited children in a most horrible way. He said Horan’s actions would have long-term effects on the victims.

He noted a medical report which stated that child porn became Horan’s autistic fixated interest as a source of pleasure and relaxation.

“He knew what he was doing was wrong. He understood the damage and yet he didn’t stop what he was doing,” he said.

Judge Nolan backdated the sentence to June last year, when Horan went into custody. He ordered a report from the Probation Service into what interventions and services the prison service could provide to reform Horan.

“If there are such interventions, he has to partake of those meaningfully. It is important for society and him that he is given certain interventions that will change him,” he said.

One of the victims, who was 10 when Horan exploited her, told the court that she thought chatting online was safe and was “like making a new friend”.

“It wasn’t. It made me feel ashamed, scared and alone,” she said. She said she felt sad and angry about the exploitation but she wanted to prevent it happening to anybody else.

“I felt scared because I told him where I had lived. I was afraid he was going to come and get me,” she said, in a victim impact statement read out in court today.

Two other victim impact statements, written by the parents of two of the nine-year-old victims, were read out in court on Monday.

Outside the court, Detective Superintendent Declan Daly said this case was a “timely reminder of the dangers that can occur on the Internet and the need for parents to be vigilant of their children’s Internet use”.

He said it was “exceptionally dangerous” for children to share images online, and that children should never agree to meet any person on the internet.

He said if images were shared already, gardaí recommended that children should not share any more images, stop all communication and tell a parent or appropriate adult.

“They should preserve the evidence and not delete anything and they should report the matter to gardaí,” he said.

‘Absolute shock’

Earlier this week, Detective Garda David Connolly told Lorcan Staines BL, prosecuting, that the parents of the then nine-year-old girls from the Skype recordings expressed their “absolute shock” when they found out about the exchanges with Horan.

They said they “felt sick to the pit of our stomachs” and felt they failed to protect their daughters from the online predator.

Connolly told Mr Staines that American authorities contacted gardaí about a gmail account being used to share child porn. Investigators eventually tracked the gmail account to Horan and gardaí searched his address.

They seized a number of devices and got him to disclose all of the passwords to his online applications.

In a forensic investigation that took over a year, expert gardaí discovered thousands of images and videos of child porn. Some of these involved young babies.

Horan also engaged in graphic text exchanges with the child users in which he would describe violent sexual acts.

Connolly said Horan would copy and paste the same descriptions of sexual acts he would like to do and send them to multiple message recipients.

He would also send Kik messages to users, opening with the question: “Yo, wanna see some child porn?” before sending graphic images.

Connolly told Mr Staines that forensic experts also found Skype conversations between Horan and an individual who is currently under investigation and who a daughter.

Through the conversations Horan and this man shared fantasies about the young girl.

Horan told the man:

We’re just two sick fucks who are totally cool with being sick fucks.

Connolly agreed with Patrick Gageby SC, defending, that his client had a closed existence with incessant activity on the internet.

He further agreed that Horan had never established physical contact with any of the children and there was no evidence of commercial gain through sharing the images.

Gageby said his client was a perpetual loner who was on the autism spectrum. He said the death of his mother when he was aged three left his father adrift and this had an effect on his upbringing.

He said that a psychological report stated that “fixated interests of people on the autism spectrum often functions as a way of reducing stress”. He added that it was hard to see if there were any other interests in Horan’s life.

He said Horan lived a dingy existence and that since completing his Leaving Cert in 2009 he has done nothing except to be at home and be on the computer.

Victim impact 

On Monday the father of one of the then nine-year-old girls made a victim impact statement on her behalf, describing how she was targeted by an online predator who she thought was a child her own age.

He said she had bought her Samsung phone with her Communion money to watch cartoons, dancing and singing online. He said it came as an “absolute shock” when gardaí contacted him and he could never have dreamt of the purpose for the subsequent meeting with officers.

He said he was shown an image of his daughter and felt like his home “had been invaded and a burglary had taken place”. The man said he also felt guilty because he had failed to protect his child.

He said he was upset and uncomfortable because once something was out there on the internet, it could never be erased. “This makes us sick to the pits of our stomachs,” the father said in the victim impact statement.

He added that the events would only become clearer for his daughter when she gets older.

The other little girl’s mother submitted a victim impact report on her behalf in which she described how her child had gotten the phone for a similar purpose, to watch cartoons and singing online.

The woman said when she found out her daughter had been targeted by an online predator pretending to be a child, “my body started to shake, my blood started to boil”.

The mother said she felt so bad that she failed to protect her child and that she would never get over what happened.

Read: Dublin man (26) used WhatsApp and Kik to force children to send him explicit photos

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