We tracked 91-year-old James Israel, AKA James Treacy, down to an isolated rural cottage in south Wexford last week
We tracked 91-year-old James Israel, AKA James Treacy, down to an isolated rural cottage in south Wexford last week after he was given a suspended sentence for possession of child pornography.
Despite being described in court as a man ‘of deep spiritual faith’, Israel’s initial response when our reporter approached was somewhat less than Christian.
“You’re going to get into trouble, get out of here – go,” he roared, after our man identified himself.
“Journalist? Are you belonging to that cursed newspaper?” he then asked – referring to highly-respected local newspaper the Wexford People in which details of his case were first reported.
“Printing all those lies about this man!”
When our reporter clarified that he was with the Sunday World, Israel, somewhat mollified, continued: “Well, if that’s the case I apologise.
“My name is Trevor.”
Having already confirmed his identity from his publicly-available Facebook account, our reporter was then instructed to knock on the front door of Israel’s home and speak with a man who identified himself as Israel’s carer.
When we did so, the man told this newspaper that there was a media ban in place barring the details of Israel’s case from being made public.
TheSunday World later checked if this was the case and established no such court reporting restrictions were outlined at any stage during the hearing of Israel’s case.
At his appearance at Wexford Circuit Court, the nonagenarian had pleaded guilty before Judge Martin Nolan to possession of child pornography.
The offence came to light in April 2018 when he dropped his Apple Mac computer into Joyce’s Electrical in Wexford for servicing.
The technician assigned to carry out the work was concerned by the pictures on the device – including images of young boys with their genitals exposed –and gardai were alerted.
The Apple Mac was seized by investigators, as was a personal computer found when Israel’s cottage was searched under warrant.
Israel’s response was to argue that as there was no adult in any of the pictures the material should not be classified as pornography.
However, the law dictated otherwise and the elderly man pleaded guilty.
Details of what was found on two computers were given to the court by Detective Garda Trevor Buckley.
Hundreds of images of young boys not deemed pornographic showed up, the detective said.
However, there was also more sinister material, including a haul of pornographic cartoons.
And the court’s attention was drawn to four images of explicit child sex and more than 100 images of child exposure.
Asked by the Sunday Worldabout the images that had been found on his computer, Israel responded: “The computer had been hacked, that’s why we brought it in for repairs.
“It was left in to be repaired four or five years ago. Normally a person who had something to hide would not leave a device in a shop to be repaired.”
Asked if he had raised the hacking defence in court, Israel accepted that he had not.
Asked if he was saying he hadn’t downloaded the images, Israel responded: “They weren’t done by us but they were on the computer.
“And you see there is a law in some countries in Europe where you can have stuff that the law here says no to.”
During Israel’s sentencing, Detective Garda Trevor Buckley outlined details of the pensioner’s background.
He said Israel was a former UK resident who was previously called James Treacy but changed his surname by deed poll to become Israel.
He had no record of convictions in Ireland but was convicted in the UK of ‘child stealing’ back in 1960.
The child in question was 11 years old at the time.
Asked about this conviction by the Sunday World, Israel said: “There was a religious thing.
“It meant that encouraging anyone to come out to be a priest was punishable, at one time, by death in England and, at another time, by seven years in prison.
“That boy was in the care of a religious order in Genoa and he was being well protected and looked after.
“And the Pope at the time, Pope John XXIII, knew he was OK.”
Asked if he was saying he had taken a child from England all the way to Italy, Israel said: “The child came himself of his own free will because he wanted to be a priest – to study in a place where he could do it.”
At Israel’s sentencing hearing, defending barrister Eamonn Whitmore stated that his client had worked all over Europe in the past.
Proficient in the German language, he worked as a Berlitz School teacher, spending time in Barcelona and Rome.
He was a man of deep spiritual faith, counsel suggested.
Judge Martin Nolan noted Israel’s belief that the material which landed him before the court was legal.
It would be an understatement to say he was misguided, and the court observed that “his views [are] not consistent with the criminal law in this country.”
However, at the age of 91, it would be unjust to send him to prison.
The judge suspended a two-year sentence handed down to Israel.
An order for destruction of the two computers was granted.
Israel was also warned in court that his age would not protect him from going to jail if he reoffends.