CHILDREN’S COURT Girl (15) downloaded hundreds of images of infants being raped and tortured, court told
The court heard she ‘was groomed at the age of 10 in relation to this type of behaviour’
A then 15-year-old girl downloaded hundreds of videos and images of infants and young children being raped and tortured, a court has heard.
Now aged 17, she appeared at the Dublin Children’s Court yesterday after gardaí charged her with two offences under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act.
The court heard it was alleged the teen believed paedophilia was an acceptable sexuality and that she could use the ‘dark web’, a specialised internet browser for hidden sites online.
She is accused of possessing 348 images and 196 videos classified as category one, graphically featuring sexual activity. Gardaí also charged her with having 432 images assessed as category two, showing child exposure.
The teen cannot be named because she is a minor. The investigation began after the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in the US contacted Irish authorities in 2019. Garda Inspector Conor Ó Braonáin told District Court President Judge Paul Kelly the girl “made no reply to charge”.
Due to the volume and depravity of the material, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) recommended trial on indictment in the Circuit Court, which has broader sentencing powers.
However, because she is a juvenile, the girl was entitled to a preliminary hearing to plead with the Children’s Court to accept jurisdiction.
Outlining the prosecution case, Insp Ó Braonáin said American authorities informed gardaí of the presence of child pornography, an image of a naked female with genitals visible, and a video in a Google account. Gardaí used her IP (internet protocol) address to find out where she lived.
Then, gardaí had her mobile phone forensically examined. Files were extracted on to a hard drive and analysed. Insp Ó Braonáin said one of the videos was made in the Philippines.
In the presence of a parent, the girl later signed a consent form giving gardaí the password to her online account.
Insp Ó Braonáin also linked images to a specific Dropbox computer file account and requested mutual assistance from US authorities. As a result, in 2020, gardaí could analyse contents of the file.
It contained hundreds of jpeg image files and videos arranged in 16 folders with specific titles. The material featured rape by adults of children including infants.
Questioned by the girl’s defence solicitor, Insp Ó Braonáin agreed she had been attending Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
He accepted she provided great assistance to the investigation and, since then, Tusla admitted her into special care.
The court heard she “was groomed at the age of 10 in relation to this type of behaviour”. It came to the attention of social workers in 2015 following concerns she had been sexually exploited online.
Tusla provided her with therapeutic support, and social workers ensured she never left her accommodation alone.
Her solicitor asked the court to note her harrowing background and that the girl was immature at the time of the offences. She had no previous criminal convictions.
Refusing jurisdiction, however, Judge Kelly said it was clearly too serious for the Children’s Court. He adjourned the case for the DPP to complete a book of evidence for her trial.
Insp Ó Braonáin also objected to bail due to the seriousness of the case. He said the girl had not been diagnosed with any mental health conditions, but she lacked empathy. He alleged she showed no remorse and was manipulative. He also cited the level of planning used.
“The organisation of folders was not haphazard; it was organised in sections,” he said, adding that she managed to keep it secret from her family.
He also maintained that she was “technically competent” and “can comfortably navigate the dark web”. He cited flight risk concerns after the girl allegedly told him that she had learned a foreign language and planned to leave Ireland to teach music.
“She identifies paedophilia as an acceptable sexuality and is awaiting the opportunity to commit a contact offence; her sexual boundaries are very much distorted,” he added.
Her solicitor pleaded with the court to impose strict bail conditions, including banning her from having or using any internet-capable device.
Judge Kelly agreed to make that one of the bail terms. He also warned her that she must not leave her accommodation unaccompanied or apply for a passport. The girl spoke twice during the hearing, saying “yes” when asked if she understood the bail terms and that breaking them could result in being detained.