State official caught with 60,000 child pornography images and videos avoids jail

State official caught with 60,000 child pornography images and videos avoids jail

A RETIRED senior civil servant who was caught in possession of nearly 60,000 child pornography images and videos has avoided jail.

Brendan Phelan (66), who worked for years within the Department of Health and Children, appeared in court today where he was given a suspended three-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography at his home on March 26, 2013.

Phelan admitted to gardaí that he had a “fair bit” of child pornography relating to young boys when his home was raided five years ago.

Most of the images and clips were described as “naturist”, but others showed pre-pubescent boys engaged in sexual behaviour.

Since his home was raided in 2013, he has attended counselling and rehabilitated himself, with a report handed into court showing he is at a low risk of re-offending.

Handing down the suspended sentence, Judge Martin Nolan said the conviction would bring shame on Phelan and his family and that he would be placed on the sex offenders register.

The judge took into account a number of mitigating factors, including the nature of the images - the majority of which were placed in the lowest category of seriousness by gardaí - his cooperation and the fact that Phelan did not produce or distribute the material elsewhere.

Gardaí received a tip-off from Canadian officials in relation to clients who had bought child porn from a website under their investigation.

As a result, gardaí raided Phelan's home in March 2013, where they seized his computer, a laptop and five external hard drives, among other equipment. A suitcase of DVDs found in Phelan's bedroom was also seized.

When the material was eventually examined four years later, gardaí discovered 58,585 child pornography images and 1,046 movies.

Phelan readily admitted to gardaí that he had started looking at child pornography “a long time ago”.

He has no previous convictions.