Friday, November 04, 2022

Stephen Maguire

A chef whose house was picketed by outraged neighbours after he was caught with a stash of child sexual abuse imagery has been jailed for a year.

Donard McLarnon was forced to leave his Co Donegal home after locals heard of his arrest on July 18th, 2019.

The Garda swoop, organised as part of Operation Ketch, set up to identify suspects downloading child sexual abuse material, was organised after McLarnon’s IP address showed up to officers.

Gardaí recovered an iPhone 6 from the back of a sofa in the house in Kerrykeel.

Detective Garda Eugene Organ said he found two movies and 86 photos on the phone.

The movies and a number of the pictures were classed as Category 4 of child sexual abuse material which are deemed among the most serious of such offences against children.

Barrister for McLarnon, Fiona Crawford, said the case of the accused was “a curiosity that became an addiction”.

“He tried at times to stop and wouldn’t access child pornography, but out of compulsion he started again,” Ms Crawford said.

“He was immersed in a fantasy world of meeting consenting adults for sexual needs.”

Addiction issues were outlined in a probation and welfare report, Ms Crawford said. The report highlighted issues McLarnon had with his sexual identity with the accused reporting himself as metasexual.

Originally from Belfast, McLarnon became ostracised from his brother after these issues came to light.

McLarnon was working in Donegal and residing in Kerrykeel at the time. Ms Crawford told the court that McLarnon was “chased from the community”.

Sleeping rough

He was remanded in custody after being unable to provide an address after he had been sleeping rough in his car.

The 53-year-old McLarnon has been in custody since May 30th, 2022 after bail was revoked. Gardaí found him living in his car in Galway and arrested him on foot of a bench warrant. McLarnon has a property in Kilkenny, but has not been able to live there since these matters entered the public domain.

Ms Crawford told the court that McLarnon’s marriage of 20 years broke down and the accused had issues with drugs and alcohol.

McLarnon, who has no previous convictions, felt “remorse and shame” over the offences, his barrister added.

Passing sentence, Judge John Aylmer noted that the accused held a relatively small number of images in comparison to some cases which came before the court.

However, he said some of the images contained in two videos seized were of a “particularly serious nature” and depicted adults performing penetrative sex with children as young as 5 years of age.

Before mitigation he said he placed these offences in the mid-range of such offences and one which merited a sentence of two and a half years.

In mitigation he said the accused had entered an early guilty plea and had cooperated with the investigation.

McLarnon had no previous convictions, that he demonstrated remorse and also displayed an insight into the offending.

For these reasons he was reducing the sentence to one of 20 months and with regard to allowing encouragement for further rehabilitation he said he was suspending the final eight months of that sentence.

He also backdated the sentence to when McLaron went into custody on May 30th last.

He also ordered the accused to stay off alcohol and drugs and comply with the directions of the Probation Services and to also engage with the local mental health services.

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