Man who filmed himself abusing baby to be sentenced before Limerick court this morning

Limerick Circuit Court.

A MAN who filmed himself carrying out sex acts on an infant boy, and then shared the video footage with others online, is to be sentenced before Limerick Circuit Criminal Court this morning (Friday).

The man, who cannot be identified after reporting restrictions were imposed by the court, has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the baby boy.

He also admitted possessing, producing, and distributing the videos and images, which he recorded on a mobile phone in December 2020.

The man, who has 133 previous convictions, including for road traffic offences, burglary, threats to kill, criminal damage, possessing stolen property, and violent disorder, also pled guilty to a charge of using communication technology to facilitate the sexual exploitation of the infant boy.

Under the guise of an online pseudonym, the man uploaded and distributed 17 digital files (15 videos and two images) on the Kik messaging and chat platform after he set up an account using his email address.

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The material showed the defendant sexually abusing the boy, as well as images and videos of naked underage girls and a girl being a sexually assaulted by an unidentified male, which were sent to the defendant by unknown parties.

Gardaí classified the footage of the defendant sexually abusing the boy as “Category 1”, the highest on the scale in respect of child sexual offences.

Identified through ‘distinctive’ tattoos

The man admitted all of the offences but, when initially interviewed by Gardaí following his arrest in January 2021, he denied having a sexual interest in children and blamed his actions on his cocaine use.

However, at the man’s pre-sentencing hearing this Thursday (April 11), his defence barrister said his instructions were that the man “is not blaming cocaine, and he must accept what he did”.

“No one is to blame but himself and he is deeply ashamed of his behaviour”.

The man, who it was heard suffered an acquired brain injury following a road traffic collision in 2008, has refused to tell Gardaí the source of the illegal images and videos of young girls he shared online.

The man was arrested by Gardaí in early January 2021 while he was serving an 18-month prison sentence for a separate conviction for violent disorder.

The man used his email address to set up an account on the Kik platform, which he used to share the child sex videos and images.

The defendant’s face was not in the video or pictures but he was eventually identified because of distinctive tattoos on his body which were visible in the footage.

The boy’s mother told the pre-sentencing hearing, which was held in-camera on Thursday, that she wanted reporting restrictions lifted in the case so that the man could be identified.

‘I can’t trust anybody after this’

Reading a victim impact statement on behalf of her son, the woman told the court: “I never thought that something like this would come to my family. I never thought my son would be violated in such a way, it was such a shock to me, my family, and friends.”

The woman said it had destroyed her mental health, saying she had self harmed and attempted suicide “all because of what happened my son”.

The woman said she could not forgive the defendant for what he had done to her son.

“It has had a big impact on my life and I think about it every day. I would be more cautious about who I leave my son around because I can’t trust anybody after this,” she said.

After liaising with prosecuting counsel, John O’Sullivan BL, Judge Tom O’Donnell made an order excluding members of the public from the pre-sentencing hearing, having heard the evidence would be “gross” in the extreme, but he said the victim’s mother, Gardaí, and bona fide members of the press were entitled to be present.

‘He acknowledges he must be punished’ 

The offences came to light when the Garda Online Child Exploitation unit (ONCE) received a tip-off from the US-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (MCMEC) after the defendant uploaded the images and videos on Kik.

Detective Garda John O’Neill, attached to the Limerick Garda divisional protective services unit (DPSU), which specialises in investigations into crimes of a sexual nature, said the material was traced back to the defendant’s address.

When Gardaí obtained a warrant to search the man’s home, they discovered he had had already deleted the videos and images from his mobile phone, but the videos and images were forwarded to Gardaí by the US authorities and Kik.

The man sent a handwritten letter from prison to the victim’s mother apologising for what he had done to her son.

While the defendant has no prior sexual offences convictions, his criminal record was “not one that (he) can be proud”, his barrister acknowledged.

The barrister said the man can expect a custodial sentence, but he argued he is also entitled to a partially suspended sentence as he has declined to take up bail since May 2013.

“He acknowledges he must be punished,” the man’s barrister said.

Judge O’Donnell said it was a “very disturbing case” and that he would decide on whether or not to lift reporting restrictions when passing sentence this morning (Friday).