A Co Donegal man who admitted downloading dozens of pictures and movies of children being sexually abused by a German-based paedophile ring has walked free from prison.
Computer science student and electrician Martin Ferris was caught by Gardai who raided two properties after the accused was identified by his IP computer adress by European police agency Interpol.
Officers raided the 32-year-old’s home house in Ballyshannon and a rented flat in Letterkenny where they found the cache of horrific material.
Detectives recovered a large stash of items on Ferris’ laptop computer and also a hard-drive.
The haul included 152 images and 143 movies all containing explicit material of children aged from 4 years to 14 years involved in various sexual acts.
Ferris immediately admitted his crimes to Gardai saying he would “save them the hassle” of looking for child pornography on his laptops.
Detective Garda John Rooney said Ferris supplied them with passwords and was very cooperative with their investigation.
Ferris, of St Benildus Avenue in Ballyshannon, told Letterkenny Circuit Court that he always suffered from social anxiety.
“I have always been socially awkward and backwards,” he said.
Since being caught with the child pornography, Ferris has undergone counselling and now recognized the fact that this was not a victimless crime.
He had brought €2,500 to court which he had saved up and wanted to offer this as some compensation to a children’s charity for what he had done.
He added “I have seen my behaviour and I have seen that this is not a victimless crime and there had to be accountability and I can give something back,” he said.
The court was told that Ferris was a hard-working man who was known in his hometown and had been involved working at festivals and concerts.
He had not come to the attention of Gardai since he was caught with the material.
His family were aware of his situation but they had supported him although he admitted that a small number of people had shunned him following publicity surrounding his case.
His barrister Mr Peter Nolan, instructed by solicitor Rory O’Brien said his client had no previous convictions, came from a stable family, had a trade as an electrician to enter and had engaged fully in a programme of counselling.
He said that while the crimes were appalling, he suggested it was on the lower end of the scale with regard to the volume seen in other cases before the courts.
Judge John Aylmer said the first charge of images contained on the hard-drive were of a very serious nature despite what he called the “relatively low volume” of material found.
He placed this charge at the upper end of such catergories and merited a prison sentence of two and half years before mitigation.
The second charge of six movies on a laptop he placed at the lower end of such categories and merited 18 months before mitigation.
However, he said that these should be reduced to 20 months and 12 months on mitigation.
This mitigation included his early plea, his obvious remorse, the fact that he had no previous charges, had undergone counselling and had offered a sum of €2,500 to a children charity.
Judge Aylmer said however, that this was one of those rare cases in which the entire sentence should be suspended due to all the mirigtaing circumstances.
He added the fact that the accused had had the case hanging over him for the past five years was one of these factors.
He adjourned the case until July and said that if Ferris pays the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children the sum of €2,500 he would suspend the entire sentence.
He placed him in the care of the probation services and also ordered him to be put on the Sex Offenders Register.