Court asked not to send student caught with child pornography to jail

June 30, 2022

A court has been asked to allow a student found with a stash of child pornography to be allowed to continue getting counselling rather than be sent to jail.

Oliver Ferris appeared before Letterkenny Circuit Court after a lost computer hard-drive belonging to him was found at Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

Staff seeking to reunite the student with the property downloaded the hard-drive in March, 2019 and were shocked to find images of children being sexually abused.

They contacted Gardai at Letterkenny Garda station who immediately launched an investigation.

Gardai found college coursework also on the hard-drive and using a specific code they managed to track down the student.

Ferris was interviewed by Gardai where he made full admissions of accessing and downloading the child pornography.

The now 25-year-old has pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography under the Child Pornography and Trafficking Act.

Wearing a blue suit and accompanied by his mother and father, details of the case were read out in court.

Detective Garda Darren Carter told how they called to the home of Ferris at Foxhills, Carnamuggagh in Letterkenny on April 15th, 2019.

He handed over a number of devices including an iPhone, an Apple Mac and an iPad.

The devices were sent to the National Computer Crime Unit on March 4th for analysis.

A total of nine video files, 84 images and 43 urls all depicting images of children being abused sexually were found.

Some of the children were as young as five years old.

The court was told that Ferris had completed a degree and then a masters in computing, had also operated a web development business and had a greater knowledge than most people of computers.

Detective Carter said that analysis showed that Ferris accessed the material on 59 occasions during a certain period of time.

Ferris told Gardai he downloaded but then deleted but some of the materials stayed on his hard-drive.

He said he felt stupid for downloading the material and that it could ruin the rest of his life.

He admitted that he first started downloading such material when he was just 15 years old but did not feel he was addicted to it.

He had lost his business as a result of the publicity from the case and his mother also had to move home as a result.

Barrister for Ferris, Mr Shane Costello, SC, said his client had come out as gay in secondary school and this had led to him being very lonely.

He has entered the dark web and found it fascinating.

He initially looked at pornography and then child pornography but says he does not feel that he is sexually attracted to children.

He felt he was viewing the child pornography as a sense of release and found arousal because he knew what he was doing was wrong and was using it as a crutch to support himself, added Mr Costello.

However, since his arrest he had undergone a number of hour of counselling with Forensic Psychology Ireland which he had funded himself and which he found very useful.

Mr Costello added that not only did Ferris express sincere remorse and shame but that he has developed a degree of empathy for his victims and what the children have gone through.

He added that it was his opinion that if Ferris was allowed to continue his counselling that he could stay out of trouble and eventually contribute to society saying he has matured mentally since the incident.

There was also legal discussion as to which category the pornographic material found on Ferris’ hard-drive belonged to.

Judge John Aylmer adjourned final sentencing until next Thursday.