Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Eimear Dodd

A man who downloaded almost 3,000 images and videos of “grotesque” child abuse material has been handed a 12 month prison sentence.

Sergio Arriaga (44) downloaded and stored over 2,700 images and 234 videos of child sex abuse material across various hard drives, some of which depicted children as young as two years old.

Arriaga, of Liffey Crescent, Liffey Valley Park, Lucan, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of child pornography at his address on April 29th, 2013. He has no previous convictions.

Imposing sentence on Tuesday, Judge Elma Sheahan said the nature of the child abuse material found was “grotesque”. She said this type of crime is “far from victimless” and that the “enormity of the harm done to children in these videos and images cannot be forgotten”.

Judge Sheahan handed a 20-month sentence to Arriaga with the final eight months suspended on strict conditions.

Arriaga must also place himself under the supervision of the Probation Services for eight months.

Previous hearing

Detective Garda Marie Walsh previously told Tony McGillicuddy SC, prosecuting, that on foot of information “obtained from parties in Germany”, a search warrant was obtained for Arriaga’s address.

Det Gda Walsh said the warrant was executed in April 2013 when the accused man and his parents were in the house. Various hard drives and electronic devices were seized by gardai.

Illegal material was discovered on 11 hard drives of various types. The material was downloaded from a peer-to-peer sharing network in which a number of users can share images and videos with each other.

Of the material that was discovered, over 600 images and 148 videos were considered to be in the first category of child sex abuse material while over 2,000 images and 82 videos were classed as the second category.

There is no evidence that any of the illegal files were produced by the accused or that he knowingly distributed any of the material.

Det Gda Walsh agreed with Brian Gageby BL, defending, that his client was generally cooperative with gardaí and was not otherwise on the garda radar. She agreed the delay between the search of his client’s home and the matter appearing in court was not Arriaga’s fault.

‘Shocking’ case

Mr Gageby said the material in the case is of “a shocking nature” and that he was instructed by his client to apologise on his behalf.

Counsel said his client first came across child sex abuse material as part of a “block download” and became interested in images of adolescent girls. Arriaga denies having a particular interest in “young girls” and claims he would download images in large batches.

Mr Gageby said his client denied having a sexual interest in “actual teenage girls” and that he viewed the materials as part of a fantasy where he saw himself as an adolescent boy.

He said the offending emerged from a situation where his client was “lonely, isolated and depressed and sought out the material as some kind of coping mechanism”.

Mr Gageby told the court that his client is engaging in counselling and group therapy sessions to develop new coping skills.

Responding to Judge Sheahan’s concerns about Arriaga’s level of engagement, Mr Gageby said the process is difficult and not yet complete.

Several reports were also handed into the court.

No previous convictions

Judge Sheahan noted that Arriaga has no previous convictions and is working full-time. She said the aggravating factors include the seriousness of the offending and the nature of the material.

Judge Sheahan said the mitigating factors include the early guilty plea, his expressions of remorse and that Arriaga would be placed on the sex offender’s register.

She noted that this case had been “hanging over” Arriaga since 2013, due to the repair of hard drives.

Judge Sheahan set a headline sentence of three years, which she reduced to two years and two months taking the mitigating factors into consideration.

She further reduced the sentence to 20 months, with the final eight months suspended due to the delay in the case.

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