Man caught with indecent images of children on phone avoids jail

November 1, 2023

A Dublin man living in Kincasslagh has avoided prison after being found in possession of 40 indecent images on a mobile phone.

Patrick O’Keefe, aged 39, was handed a 12-month suspended sentence when he appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

The father-of-one, with an address at Chapel Road, Belcruit, Kincasslagh, but originally from Crumlin in Dublin, pleaded guilty to the possession of child pornography.

The images were found on O’Keefe’s phone after he turned himself in to Dungloe garda station on October 2, 2020. He was charged for the offence, which is contrary to Section 6 (1) of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998.

Detective Garda Simon Halpin told State prosecutor Ms Fiona Crawford BL that Gardai became aware of the possession and distribution of indecent images of children following an alert from the national centre for missing and exploited children, who said a picture had been uploaded and shared on Discord, an online gaming and chat platform.

The IP address was traced to a property at St Agnes Park in Crumlin, Dublin.

Gardai entered the house armed with a search warrant on October 2, 2022. O’Keefe’s father, Patrick Snr,  celebrating his 74th birthday in the house with his two daughters.

Detective Garda Halpin said that it became clear that Mr O’Keefe senior was not technically savvy and was, therefore, not a person of interest.

The accused man was on FaceTime to those at the party. He had resided in the same house until July 2020 when he moved to Donegal.

That night, O’Keefe presented himself at Dungloe garda station and handed over a Dell laptop, an Apple iPad and a Samsung mobile phone.

Officers analysed the phone, which contained 122,000 photos and 4,000 video files. Of those, 40 were deemed to be child pornography. One of those images showed penetrative sexual activity between an adult and a child, while the others showed pre-teen or early teen females posing in a sexual manner.

O’Keefe was interviewed at Milford Garda Station in September 2021 having told Gardai that he wanted to get the matter sorted as soon as possible.,

In an interview, he told investigating officers that what he had done was ‘horrendous’. “I’m sorry that you guys have to look at that,” he said.

O’Keefe said he had a lot going on at the time of the incident and, during a period when he was isolating himself from others, he was taking drugs and alcohol and viewing pornography. He told Gardai that he was not actively looking for child pornography at the time.

In October 2021, O’Keefe was reported as a missing person and was located in the Inishowen area.

Dressed in a shirt and tie, O’Keefe took to the witness box and said he understood the impact of his actions.

“I am aware that if people don’t look at this type of material then it doesn’t exist,” he said “I fully understand the damage done to the kids involved. The people viewing it keeps it going. I understand that looking at it contributes.”

O’Keefe told Judge John Aylmer that he didn’t know how ‘I got to where I got’ and said: “I know I’m not going to be there again.”

O’Keefe said he has a lot of trauma from his childhood that he hasn’t dealt with and has chosen ‘poor coping mechanisms’.

“I’m sorry,” he added.

O’Keefe told the court that he suffers with an autoimmune condition that has resulted in multiple surgeries, including the removal of sweat glands, and has left him with low self-esteem.

The accused said that he recently lost his job of 12 years as a result of this incident. He said some of his closest friends were colleagues and he has now lost these too.

Mr Colm Smyth SC represented O’Keefe alongside Mr Niall O’Neill BL, instructed by solicitor Mr Frank Dorrian. Mr Smyth said his client has been ‘proactive’ in dealing with the issues and asked Judge Aylmer to consider a non-custodial sentence.

“His entire approach has been responsible,” Mr Smyth said. “There is some substance in what he said about felling upon these images.

“He has suffered in his personal life and has brought shame on himself and his family. That is secondary to the young people who have been used and abused in cases like this.

“He has lost his employment so there have been personal consequences too.”

Judge Aylmer described the matter as ‘a serious offence’ and said it merited a term of 18 months imprisonment before taking into account the mitigating factors.

He said O’Keefe was before the court without previous convictions, voluntarily attended at a garda station with his electronic equipment and provided a full admission about his involvement.

Judge Aylmer complimented O’Keefe for persevering with counselling at the One In Four organisation ‘very successfully’ and noted that he had difficult experiences growing up which ‘unfortunately had a negative impact on his development’.

O’Keefe has already ‘suffered considerably’ having lost his employment recently and will now be placed on the sex offender’s register.

“Apart from this outrageous offence, he has lived as a person of otherwise good character,” Judge Aylmer said.

O’Keefe was sentenced to 12 month in prison with the entirety of the sentence upon O’Keefe entering a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for 12 months.