By Isabel Hayes
A judge has said she intends to jail a former security guard who admitted downloading thousands of images of children being sexually abused.
Owen Shannon (53) was found with nearly 3,500 images and videos including images of children as young as five being sexually abused by adult men.
Shannon of Carrick Hill Road, Portmarnock, Dublin worked as a security guard for a number of years but has principally been a carer for his mother and, more recently, his elderly father, for most of his life, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.
Last December Shannon, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography at his home on June 23, 2016. Judge Melanie Greally then adjourned the case to March 2 and ordered a Probation Service assessment of Shannon.
This morning she said she was conscious of Shannon’s role in respect of his father and asked if alternative arrangements were in place for his father’s care.
She said her intention was to defer sentence until such time as Shannon’s father is vaccinated against Covid-19.
Gerardine Small BL, defending, told the court that her client’s father had recently gone into hospital but has since being discharged.
Judge Greally agreed to adjourn sentencing to May 19 next and indicated she would then impose a partly suspended sentence which would include an 18 month custodial period.
Detective Garda Brian Pentony told the court at the hearing last December that following a tip-off from Russian authorities gardaí went to Shannon’s home address.
Shannon opened the door and brought gardaí to his bedroom and told them he had been accessing child sexual abuse material. He admitted to gardaí that the material would show girls as young as five being sexually abused by adult men.
Due to delays in the system, the material was only analysed last year. Gardaí found a total of 3,437 images and 56 movies on two laptops, one computer and a hard drive which had been seized.
Much of the material was at the most serious Category 1 level, which takes into account “the level of distress experienced by the children”, Elva Duffy BL, prosecuting, said. Some of the children depicted were as young as three, she said.
Shannon first accessed the material in 2007, but his viewing spiked in 2016, the court heard.
Ms Small said her client lives a “solitary, isolated life”. He has lived in the family home all his life.
The court heard Shannon started caring for his mother, who suffered ill health, from when he was an adolescent. He was very close to her and “devastated” when she died, Ms Small said.
He worked for a number of years as a security guard but gave it up to care full-time for his father, who is currently in his 80s.
Counsel handed up a letter from Shannon in which he said he deeply regrets his actions. “He has remorse for his disgusting actions and he realises that every photo and video is of a victim who suffered terribly at the hands of people who are beyond evil,” Ms Small said.
“He is ashamed of himself. He will never have a good name again.”
Ms Small said Shannon had gone to one therapy session and found it helpful but did not have the means to pay for further sessions.
“His personal circumstances are quite sad. This man has experienced social isolation for a prolonged period of time. He has no interactions outside the home,” she said.