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Tusla employee jailed for three years for possession of child pornography images

The images were the most serious of their kind.

Image: Shutterstock.com

A FATHER OF one who was found with over 2,000 child porn images at his home in Cork city while he was working for the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, has received a three-year sentence with the last two years suspended.

Denis O’Donovan  (34) previously pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography at his former home at Forest Ridge, Doughcloyne, Togher, Cork, on 9 March 2017, contrary to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Mr O’Donovan has seen his personal circumstances change with the collapse of his marriage. He has a truckers licence and hopes to work in that field having lost his job with Tulsa.

Detective Garda David Noonan of the Garda Protective Services Unit in Cork city, told Judge Sean O’Donnabhain that Mr O’Donovan had 232 category one images and 14 character one videos.

These images are the most serious of their kind. 

Detective Noonan previously told the court  that gardaí were alerted to the offence by the National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre in Canada who directed them to the man’s address in Cork city.

Gardaí went to the defendant’s home where they seized his computer which was found to contain 2,350 images and 14 video files featuring child pornography. He initially claimed that he was researching child porn as part of his work with Tulsa.

Detective Noonan told the court that Mr O’Donovan said the child porn problem started in his twenties.  

Defence barrister, Sinead Behan said that her client was engaging with and paying a medical expert one hundred euro a week for sessions. There is no suggestion that O’Donovan showed the images to children or downloaded images in his workplace.  Mr O’Donovan has made two suicide attempts since his arrest.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said it was unfortunate that the marriage had broken down and that the ground had shifted a lot since the last hearing. He said that Mr O’Donovan’s initial lie about accessing the images for work was an action which occurred out of “panic in being outed.” He stated that the accused had been open and forthright in making admissions since that point.

He said that the Category 1 pictures were of the “vilest images” emphasising that it was not a victimless crime. Judge Ó’Donnabhain said that O’Donovan did not minimise his involvement and did not distribute the images.

He sentenced O’Donovan to three years with the last two years suspended after reading a report from an expert which stated that he was at a low risk of re-offending. He added that O’Donovan had taken “difficult steps” involving prolonged treatment with an expert.

In a statement today, Tusla said it “took immediate action once notified of the seizure of materials” adding that it was “very concerning to any organisation that an employee would act in such a way, and given the sensitive nature of the work that the agency does it is particularly concerning.”

“However, the agency does not have control of the unknown actions or behaviours of its employees,” it said. 

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Olivia Kelleher

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