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Court rejects bid to have bank worker (54) jailed for producing child abuse images

"It is in the interests of society that the respondent continue with his rehabilitation in the community," the court heard.
Robert Traynor

Robert Traynor

Peter Doyle

It is in society’s interest that an IT worker who made child abuse material and was caught with nearly two thousand such images continues towards rehabilitation rather than be sent to jail, the Court of Appeal ruled today.

Robert Traynor (54), of southwest Dublin, left court in March of this year with a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to possession of 1,938 images and 183 videos of child pornography on February 2, 2018.

Traynor, a former computer worker at a bank, had also admitted the production of 1,650 computer generated images on September 22, 2014, contrary to the 1998 child trafficking pornography act.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) later appealed the sentence on the grounds it was unduly lenient.

The DPP claimed Judge Pauline Codd had erred by failing to include a period of incarceration in the two-and-a-half-year wholly suspended sentence she handed down at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The appeal, however, has been dismissed by the three-judge court.

In a written judgement delivered today by Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, it was acknowledged that the decision “to wholly suspend the sentence renders the sentence a very lenient one”.

But Ms Justice Kennedy, who was sitting with sitting with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, said “the purpose of this suspension is to further the respondent’s rehabilitation, which is in the interests of society”.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy also noted that the offences Traynor’s had been convicted of were “morally reprehensible” and “must be marked by a significant censure”.

Although she admitted the pre-mitigation sentence “was somewhat lenient”, the judge also wrote it was “nonetheless was within the margin of appreciation to be afforded to a sentencing judge”.

Judge Codd, Ms Justice Kennedy continued, had given sufficient weight to the mitigating factors in the case, such as the early guilty plea by the respondent, his lack of previous convictions, and his expressions of “regret and remorse” which he has displayed at counselling sessions he was attending to help him address his previous conduct.

“The fact that the judge wholly suspended the sentence was a decision which fell at the very outer limits of the margin of appreciation afforded to a judge, however, we are satisfied that the sentence falls within that margin of appreciation and, accordingly, we will not intervene,” Ms Justice Kennedy concluded.

Robert Traynor

Robert Traynor

Ms Justice Kennedy said the appeal court had considered whether incarceration would now serve the interests of justice.

"We have concluded that it is in the interests of society that the respondent continue with his rehabilitation in the community," she wrote.

At the appeal hearing in November, Elva Duffy BL, for the DPP, told the court that there was a level of “foreplanning and duplicity” involved in Traynor’s offending which had continued up until he had been confronted by gardai.

Ms Duffy said there had been no aspect of a deterrent in the sentence handed down and that “there should have been some element of incarceration”.

Michael Hourigan BL, for the respondent, said his client had cooperated from the outset with gardai by providing passwords to encrypted material on his arrest.

Mr Hourigan added that the offending material had been at the “lower scale” and that a non-custodial sentence was appropriate in this case.

The sentencing judge, he said, had enjoyed “the benefit of the evidence and acted in accordance with established principles when disposing of the matter”.

At the sentence hearing in March, Judge Codd said Traynor’s offending had been “abhorrent” and involved the “gross exploitation” of children.

Detective Garda Thomas Burke told Ms Duffy, prosecuting, that as part of an ongoing garda operation into online child exploitation, a computer address was linked to the possession of “child pornography” images and videos in an online “peer to peer” network.

Traynor had been living in Crumlin at the time and his home was linked to this computer through his internet provider Eir.

Gardai went to the house in February 2018 where, under caution, Traynor told them that he had downloaded erotic material but said he believed the images and videos were of adults posing as children.

The court heard Traynor had searched for the images using the Tor browser, which allows users to hide their location.

An external disk drive seized by gardai was found to contain 65 video files and hundreds of images, the court heard. These images showed girls aged between six and 12 posing for the camera where they were sexually exposed.

Over 2,000 computer generated images found in an encrypted folder depicted young girls using sex toys or lying next to naked males.

Traynor told gardaí after his arrest that the images were “skirting the boundaries” but were not “child pornography”, saying he believed they were actors posing as children.

Dt Gda Burke told Judge Codd that this was “clearly not the case” and that “they are quite obviously children”. He said some of the cartoon images depicted the girls much smaller in size and height than the males, saying “it's clear they are young children”.

Mr Hourigan, defending, told the court that his client had a good employment history.

He said as a result of a health condition in his youth, his client became isolated and his sexual development stifled. He has engaged with therapy since the offending came to light and has displayed progress in developing insight into the reasons behind his offending, counsel said.

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