By Claire Henry
A former GP has received a fully-suspended sentence of one year’s imprisonment for the possession and distribution of sexually explicit images of two children.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Ronan Keogan (51) was involved in “thrill-seeking behaviour”, was meeting many women for sex and had sent and received naked photos to and from many women of all ages.
The offending came to light after a woman who Keogan was meeting for sex went to gardai reporting that Keogan had sent her a sexually explicit image of a child and told her “this girl is 15”. He later told gardai the girl was aged 17.
When gardaí searched his computer they found 383 folders of images of women on his phone, containing 10,000 images in total. Three of these images depicted a child in a sexually explicit position, one of which he had sent to an adult woman he was meeting for sex.
Keogan of College Square, Terenure pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly distributing child pornography at an unknown location within the State on March 26, 2017. He also pleaded guilty to one count of possessing three child pornography images at an address in Templeogue, Dublin, on May 15, 2017.
The married father-of-two has no previous convictions and has not come to the attention of the gardaí since 2017.
During a garda interview, Keogan said anyone he has had sexual contact with was at or above the age of consent. He said he would not knowingly engage in sexual activity with someone not capable of giving consent.
Det Gda Byrne agreed with Lorcan Staines SC, defending, that at the time, his client was in his mid-forties and a GP who ran his own practice. He was an employer in the community, a very well-respected man in the community, and a married father.
The garda agreed with counsel that he had the task of trawling through all of Keogan’s devices and that there was a much different man behind the scenes compared to this “outward persona”.
Mr Staines said his client’s marriage had broken down. He said his client had a huge appetite for sexual activity and was active on many online dating websites.
He said he was also suffering from stress due to a pending inquest. He was also under the care of a doctor and taking medication for anxiety and depression.
Mr Staines said his client was involved in “thrill-seeking behaviour” and was meeting many women for sex. Counsel said his client sent and received naked photos to and from many women.
The court heard that the sexually explicit image sent to the woman on “Kik” was a selfie taken by the girl in the image with no suggestion of any violence in the image. Two other images found on his phone were also selfies taken by the girl.
Mr Staines said his client’s behaviour ultimately cost him everything. He has now been removed from the Medical Council, his practice has closed and he will never practice as a doctor again, all due to his own actions, counsel said.
He has also lost all forms of income and his practice was also previously vandalised due to media coverage, Mr Staines told the court. He asked the court to take into account that this was the lowest level of offending compared to what the court was used to dealing with.
After hearing evidence last month, Ms Justice Patricia Ryan adjourned the case to last Wednesday weekfor sentencing.
She said that the evidence before her was that the images were at the low level in terms of child pornography, and didn’t appear to involve any other persons. She said the images and the conversation with the woman amounted to “child pornography”, under the law.
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She said the court had to take into consideration the personal circumstances of the defendant, including the fact that he was suffering from depression and was taking medication for anxiety. She noted that the tragic death of a patient had had a very bad effect on him at the time of the offending.
She noted the effect of the conviction on the defendant’s career, his income, his professional and personal reputation, as well as on his marriage and his family relations.
She said there was nothing in the prosecution case that suggested Keogan had abused his position as a GP to carry out the offending. She noted that the prosecution was able to rely on Keogan’s own admissions that the girl in one of the pictures was 15.
She imposed a one year prison sentence and suspended it on condition that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for that period. The judge said Keogan had already received a significant punishment as a result of the convictions, noting also that he would now be a registered sex offender.
When the case first came before Dublin District Court lawyers defending Keogan applied for an order restricting publicity of the case. In response to a query from a journalist, a State solicitor told the court the order should not be in place.
The gagging order remained in place when the case went to the Circuit Court. Following an informal query from a journalist and formal applications from lawyers acting on behalf of Mediahuis, RTE and other media outlets, the order was lifted.