Kildare man convicted of child pornography possession appeals nine month jail sentence

Naas District Court

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Kildare man convicted of child pornography possession appeals nine month jail sentence

Naas Courthouse

A Kildare man who was handed down a nine month prison term for possession of child pornography is appealing the sentence.

Damien Conlon, 52, with an address listed as 24 The Park, Liffey Hall, Newbridge, appeared at Naas District Court today, January 17. He was convicted of knowingly having in his possession child pornography.

Sgt Brian Jacob gave evidence to the court that a warrant was obtained to search the above property on June 17, 2013.  Sgt Jacob said two computers were seized, which contained two movie files.

One file contained images of boys under the age of 17 on motorbikes while naked. The other file showed two boys, believed to be under the age of 15, totally naked and fighting with boxing gloves. It also showed the boys wrestling naked on mattresses with their hands tied behind their back, the court heard.

Sgt Jacob said there was no sexual activity in the files, other than the fact the boys were naked. He said this offence is on the lower end of the scale.

Sgt Jacob said the search was part of an international operation, called 'Operation Spade'.

He said police in Canada were carrying out an investigation on a particular website, and Mr Conlon's address would have been of interest to them as part of a targeted search.

Solicitor Conal Boyce told the court that his client is married with three children, and has no previous convictions.

Mr Boyce said this was the "final act of a downward spiral" for Mr Conlon, and said alcoholic overindulgence was part of this.

Mr Boyce said he wasn’t going to say anything to justify it, but referenced the fact that there was nothing overtly sexual about the files.

Judge Desmond Zaidan said the only reason he could see for the files was for sexual gratification. Mr Boyce said that one presumes that is the case.

Mr Boyce said Mr Conlon has been working with a therapist, and provided a doctor’s and therapist's report to the judge.

“He never has been any risk to members of the public”, said Mr Boyce.

He said Mr. Conlon’s wife has supported him, and that his family will stand by him with the hope to pulling themselves back to normality.

Mr Boyce asked Judge Desmond Zaidan to allow Mr Conlon to show his good faith and engage with the probation services.

He said there is a treatment programme called ‘Safer Lives’ which Mr Conlon is willing to engage with, “to prove his good faith and overcome his demons,” said Mr Boyce.

“Obviously it’s not on the high end, but it’s not on the low end either because these are children. These videos will haunt them mentally for the rest of their lives,” said Judge Zaidan.

The judge read an excerpt from the probation report which stated; “Mr Conlon was still reluctant to fully accept his behaviour in relation to downloading child pornography.”

Probation officer Dermot Lavin told the court that it can take a process for an offender to be ready to accept their behaviour.

“This is a very difficult case to deal with but there is a huge risk to the public, someone out there is abusing children. The abuse of children is a massive risk to the public”, said Judge Zaidan.

He told Mr Boyce that if his client wasn’t downloading these things, it would reduce the market for it.

Judge Zaidan said he had to strike a balance between rehabilitation and the aggravating features of the case.

He said Mr Conlon was half accepting it and half not, but said he, the judge, has a duty and the aggravating features involved speak for themselves.

The court heard Mr Conlon entered a plea of guilty on October 11, 2018, and was added to the sex offenders register.

Judge Zaidan sentenced Mr Conlon to nine months in prison. He also directed that Mr Conlon successfully take part in and complete the Safer Lives sexual offenders treatment programme in prison.

Judge Zaidan said there would be 12 months post-release supervision under the probation team as per the Sex Offenders Act 2001.

Mr Conlon lodged €500 own bond, and €500 surety money, and is currently on bail pending an appeal.