Suspended sentence | 

Student avoids jail for child abuse images found after FBI tipped off gardai

Judge Boyle noted that while only three images were involved, that still meant "three children somewhere in the world are being abused. "
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Ralph Riegel and Olivia Kelleher

A MASTERS student avoided a prison sentence after child abuse images were found by gardaí on his computer following a tip-off from an FBI team monitoring a 'dark web' internet site.

Paul Schilling (35) of The Hill, Baltimore, Cork received a two year suspended prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to possession of three child abuse images.

Schilling - who is studying for his Master's degree - appeared before Judge Helen Boyle at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

Judge Boyle noted that while only three images were involved, that still meant "three children somewhere in the world are being abused. "

The court was told that Cork gardaí were contacted from the United States in April 2016 by the FBI.

US agents were monitoring a site on the dark web which was associated with child abuse images.

An internet or IP address which had accessed the site was traced by the FBI to Cork.

Detective Sergeant Kevin Long said that on May 12 2016 gardaí searched the defendant's home on foot of a warrant.

Schilling made a voluntary statement to gardaí and several electronic items were seized.

He admitted viewing pornography of underage children having first accessed adult porn.

Judge Boyle was told that Schilling fully co-operated with gardaí by offering all his computer passwords.

Three child abuse images were found on his computer - but Schilling insisted he never uploaded or shared any such images.

Judge Boyle was told Schilling has not come to garda attention since the incident.

Defence counsel Donal O'Sullivan BL said Schilling has battled mental health problems throughout his life.

He had successfully dealt with a cannabis addiction issue and was now focusing on his postgraduate studies.

The court heard he deeply regretted what he had viewed online.

Schilling was described as a loner who kept to himself and was a keen long distance open water swimmer.

Mr O'Sullivan said that his client had poor social skills which made his life quite difficult.

He appealed for a non-custodial sentence as he said his client would have to cope with the immense burden of being placed on the Sex Offender's Register and the publicity over the case.

Judge Boyle noted Schilling's plea, remorse, co-operation with gardaí, personal issues and hard work in dealing with addiction problems.

She imposed a two year suspended prison sentence.

Schilling gave a sworn undertaking to the court to keep the peace.

He will be included on the Sex Offender's Register for a period of five years.

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