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'error of judgement' 'Devoted' father who downloaded child pornography given suspended sentence

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Dublin Circuit Criminal Court (Niall Carson/PA)

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court (Niall Carson/PA)

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court (Niall Carson/PA)

A “devoted” family man who downloaded child pornography during a period of marital difficulty has been given a suspended sentence.

Ian Belton (47) was caught with 75 images of child pornography which involved graphic images of pre-teen and teenage girls, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard this week.

A video which showed young girls being subjected to sexual acts with a man was also recovered from his laptop.

Belton pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography at his home address at Seagrange Drive, Baldoyle, Dublin on May 26, 2018. Belton has no previous convictions.

Judge Melanie Greally said that were a “sizeable” number of images involved which fell into “category two” and would normally place the case in the lower range. She noted, however, that the video, which was 46 minutes in length, brought the case into the lower end of the mid-range.

Judge Greally noted Belton had co-operated entirely with gardai. She took into account a psychiatric report she said outlined his “somewhat turbulent upbringing."

She noted he was a very good father and a caring brother to his sister with special needs.

Judge Greally said she had a large number of testimonials which all speak of the caring and considerate nature of the man who has experienced some difficulties in his own life.

She took into account that he has undergone psychotherapy and developed “very appropriate insight” into his actions and that he is truly remorseful and determined not to offend again

The judge said he had been “motivated and proactive” in addressing his risk of re-offending and is now deemed to be low risk.

Judge Greally said, in deciding if the aim of “general deterrence” could be achieved without a custodial sentence, she was of the view that the stigma and public loss of reputation as well as the registration requirements that accompanied child pornography offences achieved this objective.

She imposed an 18-month sentence which she suspended for 18 months.

Detective Garda Cian Daly told Eoin Lawlor BL, prosecuting, that gardaí got a search warrant to search Belton's home address after receiving information with regards to child pornograph.

They seized his laptop and a number of storage devices and Belton told them they would find illegal material in a folder labelled 'Work Stuff'.

An analysis of the laptop and storage devices uncovered 75 images which were placed in 'Category 2', the court heard.

These images depicted girls, mostly teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16, with their genitals exposed, the court heard.

The girls in the video were younger and appeared to be aged between eight and 12, Det Gda Daly said.

Gerardine Small BL, defending, said her client, a father of two, was supported in court by his wife and uncle.

“He has a wonderful family who were shocked and appalled when this came to light but they are all working together as a team to deal with it,” she said.

Ms Small said her client was a “devoted” father who started accessing child pornography during a period in his life when he was experiencing marital difficulties.

“He takes full responsibility for that,” Ms Small said.

“He doesn't know what drew him to child pornography. It was a huge error of judgement and one he hugely regrets.”

Ms Small said that as soon as Belton was caught with the child pornography, he took immediate action to try and address his issues.

The court heard he has participated in over 200 hours of psychotherapy sessions since 2018 and continues to have regular counselling. Ms Small said he now has an insight into his offending and the harm caused by accessing child pornography.

He has resolved to never engage with it again and has worked hard to make changes in his relationship with his wife, Ms Small said.

He is at a low risk of re-offending, the court heard.

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