Central Criminal Court
A man who encouraged teenage boys to send him naked photographs of themselves by posing as a 17-year-old girl on Facebook has been jailed for 18 months.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that during garda interviews Mark Keogh (29) repeatedly claimed that his motivation was because he believed he had an abnormality with his own penis and he wanted to see if anyone else was the same.
When gardaí raided his home they found over 700 sexually explicit images of children, around 400 of which were images of the 12 victims.
Some of the boys were asked to send photographs of themselves masturbating or performing oral sex on themselves, while three of the boys were asked to send on an image of themselves interacting with a dog.
Keogh's barrister said his client was not confused about his own sexuality but had “a concern about the presentation of his own penis”. He has previously been booked in for surgery on his penis but this did not go ahead.
Judge Martin Nolan suspended the final three and a half years of a five year prison term. He said but for Keogh's underlying problems his sentence would be considerably longer.
He noted that Keogh has “severe autism”, psychiatric and psychological problems and needs specialist help for the rest of his life.
He said he reviewed medical assessments handed in by Keogh's lawyers and said he had no doubt Keogh's problems were genuine. He said his incarceration would prove very difficult for the prison service but they had a duty of care which they should meet.
“He is very familiar with the internet and he abused this in a very criminal way. He is an intelligent man and I've no doubt he knew what he was doing was wrong.
“It seems he could not help himself,” Judge Nolan said. He said he had no doubts that the victims were “seriously embarrassed” by what happened and said it was very serious offending.
Keogh, of Balla Road, Castlebar, Co Mayo pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 14 charges of sexual exploitation of a child on dates between November 2013 and May 2014 and possession of child pornography at his then home in Kerdiff Close, Naas, Co Kildare on February 9, 2016.
He has no previous convictions and the offending came to light after he had stopped carrying it out.
Garda Leona Lennon told Caroline Cummings BL, prosecuting, that one of the boy's parents attended at a local station and expressed concerns over the contact his son had with a person on Facebook.
This led to the investigation and with the co-operation of Facebook the gardaí discovered that Keogh had set up a Facebook account under a fake name “Nicole Doyle” in July 2013. He then made friends with 14 boys, aged between 13 and 16 years old and sent them a total of 321 requests for naked photographs of themselves.
Gda Lennon said gardaí also identified an IP address in connection with the Nicole Doyle account which directed them to two separate addresses for Keogh. His home at the time, in Naas, was searched on in February 2016 and a laptop he was using was confiscated.
The court heard that 717 images of child pornography were found on that laptop, 399 of which related to images of twelve of the boys Nicole Doyle had sent requests to. Two of the teenagers had declined to send any photographs.
Gda Lennon said Keogh engaged in general conversation with each of the boys through Facebook after sending them friend requests. He would then ask them for photographs of their penises and invite them to post photographs online on a specific website.
All the teenagers believed they were engaging in conversation with 17-year-old Nicole Doyle.
All of the images were found in the recycle bin on Keogh's laptop in a folder entitled “Mine- Virus do not open”. There were further sub folders which held images of each of the boys which bore the children's initials.
None of the boys prepared a victim impact statement for the court but Gda Lennon confirmed that Keogh's admissions of guilt saved each of them the stress of going to trial.
Michael Bowman SC, defending, told Judge Nolan that his client was particularly vulnerable, struggled to secure social bonds and was bullied from a young age. Keogh has since been diagnosed as having autism.
Counsel asked the court to accept that it was an unusual offence in which no material was distributed and Keogh was “motivated by a sexual insecurity”. He said his client repeatedly used “self deprecating” language during interview.
Mr Bowman said his client has since been assessed and has been attending for therapy for almost three years now. He has also been medicated.
“He became obsessed with the fact that he was physically different to others,” Mr Bowman said before he added that Keogh is a complex young man with significant psychiatric difficulties.
Gda Lennon agreed with Mr Bowman that Keogh was co-operative at all times during the search and his subsequent interview with gardaí.
She said he was very emotional during questioning and would often become upset and tearful. She accepted he was “genuinely contrite”.
The court heard he told gardaí “I am really insecure. I was not sure if mine was normal”. He apologised, and described his behaviour as “disgusting”.
“I was looking to compare them. There is something wrong with me obviously. It's really, really bad. I am a monster,” Keogh continued.
Gda Lennon accepted that Keogh continually claimed that his motivation was because he believed he had an abnormality with his own penis and he wanted to see if anyone else was the same.
She agreed that he was extremely anxious during interview, apologised profusely for his behaviour and appeared socially awkward.