‘Sex addict’ who left USB sticks with images of children in hostel avoids jail

June 19, 2024

A man described as a “sex addict” has avoided going to jail after he left images of children in sexual poses on two USB computer sticks at a hostel in Letterkenny.

Robert Browne, who is now also known as Robert Brennan, appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

The 52-year-old pleaded guilty to knowingly having in his possession child pornography to wit, five anime images depicting prepubescent children in nude poses and engaging in sex acts, four photographic images depicting naked poses of young teenage females.

The offence is contrary to Section 6(1) of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998.

The court heard staff at the Apple Hostel in Letterkenny came across the computer sticks under a pillow while cleaning a room when Browne had left after a stay there on July 27, 2016.

They viewed the images and contacted the manager who in turn contacted Gardai in Letterkenny.

They then sent the USB sticks to the Computer Crime Investigation Unit at Harcourt Square in Dublin who analysed them.

The court heard that there were a total of nine images, five of which were described as ‘anime’ and depicted children in nude poses and engaging in acts of a sexual nature.

There were also four photo images depicting young female children in naked poses.

Browne, with an address at Birkenhead, Merseyside, UK, had been in Letterkenny for a “trip down memory lane” having studied at Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

He had previously been prosecuted in England for having more than 1,500 similar images on two laptops at his home and had received a suspended jail sentence.

Some of the images from the USB sticks were the same images which had appeared on his two laptops, the court was told

His barrister, Mr Shane Costelloe, SC, said his client had been interviewed at Westport Garda Station in relation to the USB sticks and had made immediate confessions.

He told Gardai of the previous incident and how he did not want to leave the images on the USB sticks behind him in the UK.

Garda Sergeant Maurice Doyle of Letterkenny Garda Station outlined the incident which led Browne to being arrested by Gardai.

Mr Costelloe said his client was a sex addict who attended counselling and who also counselled others.

He is disgusted and ashamed of himself, has attended court at all times and appeared at the earliest chance of a signed plea of guilty, Mr Costelloe added.

The accused has been a member of Sex Addicts Anonymous since 2018 and has undertaken a 12 Steps Programme  and is a sponsor for other sex addicts.

Browne or Brennan had also worked and donated more than £17,000 to the charity to help other sex addicts get help for their condition.

Although from Ireland originally, he lives abroad but no longer works in a field where he has interaction with young people or children.

Mr Costelloe added that a probation report carried out on Browne speaks of his ongoing efforts to rehabilitate himself and how he fully accepts that at the time he was “out of control” but that he now understands his “chronic sex addiction.”

Reflecting on his client’s lengthy efforts at rehabilitation, Mr Costelloe suggested the accused is “not somebody who is likely to commit similar type offences or engage in such acts again.”

Passing sentence, Judge John Aylmer said he was placing the offending for such matters on the lower end of the scale because of the nature and the volume of the material and, before mitigation, it merited a sentence of 18 months in prison.

He said he also noted the decision of the courts in the UK in dealing with a larger volume of material was a 12 month sentence suspended over two years.

He said the delay in dealing with this case was unfortunate but pointed to Covid and also the large volume of cases being dealt with by Gardai at Harcourt Square.

He added that it does appear that the accused does not want to be involved in this type of behaviour again and noted his efforts at rehab, his early plea, his donation of £17,000 to charity and the fact that he has no previous convictions in this jurisdiction.

He also noted the probation report is “unusually favourable.”

Because of all these factors, he proposed to reduce that sentence of 18 months to one of 12 months.

However,  because of the level of rehabilitation he was proposing to suspend the entirety of the sentence for 12 months providing the accused enter a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for 12 months.

He is also to sign on the sex offenders register.