Retired garda to be sentenced today for child sexual exploitation after UK police sting operation
7th December 2022
A retired garda sergeant is due to be sentenced today for a series of offences relating to the sexual exploitation of a child after engaging in sexualised conversations with undercover police purporting to be a young girl in an internet chat room.
A previous sitting of Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court in June heard that Thomas O’Rourke, who had a self-confessed addiction to online chat rooms, had admitted engaging in several online chats of a sexualised nature five years ago with a girl he believed to be aged 13
O’Rourke (73) a married father-of-two adult children from Glencap Commons, Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty to two counts of the production of child pornography contrary to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 by engaging in sexualised conversations with a child on July 28, 2017 and October 25, 2017.
The accused, who retired as a garda sergeant in 2003 after serving 34 years in the force, also pleaded guilty to two counts of using information and communication technology for the sexual exploitation of a child contrary to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 on August 2 and August 4, 2017.
Detective Garda Gary Collins said gardaí were alerted about a report of the sexual exploitation of a child online by Europol in September 2017.
Det Garda Collins said the accused had come to the attention of police in south Wales who were conducting a covert operation online with undercover police officers
The court heard that O’Rourke, who had the username “Tomrod”, engaged in conversation with an undercover officer who used the handle “LittleKittie13” in a chatroom on the Lycos Chat platform.
Det Garda Collins said the conversation started off with “nothing out of place” but quickly became “very sexualised”.
He said the accused has asked LittleKittie13 if she liked kissing and if the boy she had kissed had become aroused, and also if her parents shared the same bed and made love.
Evidence was heard that O’Rourke had provided LittleKittie13 with details about his actual age, name and location.
When asked if it hurt when a boy got aroused, O’Rourke replied: “No. It is very pleasant.”
He also asked LittleKitte13 if she got aroused.
Det Garda Collins said such conversations with someone who had stated she was 13-years-old, constituted child pornography.
The court heard that O’Rourke had engaged in four separate conversations with LittleKittie13 with one lasting over an hour.
Det Garda Collins said the accused had provided his business e-mail address to LittleKittie13 who had replied to it in case he wanted to send her photographs but none were ever sent.
O’Rourke’s house was searched in February 2018 and a computer, laptop and two phones were seized.
When arrested Det Garda Collins said O’Rourke was adamant that he had no child pornographic material and the court heard that there was no evidence of any child pornography among a total of 123,806 images and videos found on the devices.
Under cross-examination by counsel for O’Rourke, Paul Murray SC, the witness agreed that his client was “non-sophisticated” and “naïve” in the way he had made no attempt to disguise his identity from LittleKittie13.
Det Garda Collins said the retired garda also appeared embarrassed and humiliated by his actions.
He agreed that O’Rourke’s use of chatrooms was predominantly for engaging with adult females and that he had never suggested any physical meeting with LittleKittie13.
Det Garda Collins confirmed that there had been no report of any inappropriate use of chat rooms by O’Rourke since the last offence in October 2017.
Although the offences were not at the highest level of crimes involving child pornography, Det Garda Collins said they still contained sexualised talk.
“It could have been a different situation if they were not undercover officers,” he remarked.
A psychologist and addiction therapist, Susan Byrne, gave evidence that O’Rourke had an addiction to online chat rooms, especially for sexualised conversations with adult females, which was triggered by loneliness and boredom after he had retired as a garda.
Dr Byrne said O’Rourke had had a relapse about his use of chat rooms since she first began treating him in 2018 following his arrest.
The court heard he first recognised he had such an addiction in 2012.
Dr Byrne said he was remorseful and deeply ashamed of his actions and felt “very stupid” but stressed that he was “fundamentally a good man”.
“If he could turn back the clock, he would do it in a heartbeat,” she added.
Counsel for the DPP, James Kelly BL, told the court that O’Rourke had admitted to a probation officer that the thrill of being sexually explicit with an underage girl in a chat room “took over any reason”.
Judge Patrick Quinn adjourned the hearing after hearing claims that the assessment by the Probation Service of his likelihood of re-offending had been changed from “low” to “moderate” by an officer who had not interviewed the accused, while the judge remarked it was “a clear problem” that he had suffered a relapse in his use of chat rooms.
O’Rourke is due to be sentenced at Wicklow Circuit Court today.