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Retired garda sergeant caught having sex chat with girl (13) was head of historical society
Thomas O’Rourke, who had the username ‘Tomrod’, engaged in conversation with an undercover officer who used the handle ‘LittleKittie13’
27th December 2022
A retired garda sergeant given a suspended sentence for possession of child pornography and the sexual exploitation of a child was formerly head of his local historical society and had written a book on hedge schools.
But a spokesperson for Kilmacanogue Historical Society in Wicklow – where Thomas O’Rourke previously held the role of chairperson – has told Sunday World the society was no longer associated with the pervert garda.
“He resigned from the society immediately when all this came out,” the spokesperson said.
Asked if the members had been shocked by the details of the offences, the spokesperson responded “big time”.
Earlier this month, O’Rourke (74) of Clencap Commons, Kilmacanogue was given a suspended 18-month sentence after pleading guilty to a series of offences relating to child pornography and the sexual exploitation of a child.
He had pleaded guilty to 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 heard that O’Rourke, who had a self-confessed addiction to online chat rooms, had admitted engaging in several chats of a sexualised nature five years ago with a girl he believed to be aged 13.
The married father of two pleaded guilty to two counts of the production of child pornography contrary to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 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 on August 2 and 4, 2017.
O’Rourke, a native of Limerick, had previously been feted in his local community, not just for his work as a local garda in good standing, but also for his academic works as a local historian.
In 2015, he was joined by more than 70 local people as he launched his book The Hedge Schools of Wicklow in the Harbour Bar.
His wife was there to congratulate him and his sons travelled home from Australia and Canada respectively.
The book was a history of hedge school education in Co Wicklow during penal suppression.
It was a time when schoolmasters were forced to conceal their classes in hedgerows.
The Hedge Schools of Wicklow was subsequently advertised for sale in local bookshops and online.
During his court case, Detective Garda Gary Collins told how O’Rourke’s online activities were discovered following a report of the sexual exploitation of a child online by Europol in September 2017.
Det Garda Collins said O’Rourke had come to the attention of police in south Wales who were conducting a covert operation online with undercover police officers.
The court heard O’Rourke, who had the username “Tomrod”, engaged in conversation with an undercover officer who used the handle “LittleKittie13” in a chat room on the Lycos Chat platform.
Det Garda Collins said the conversation started off with “nothing out of place” but quickly became “very sexualised”, adding such conversations with someone who had stated she was 13 years old constituted child pornography.
The court heard that ’Rourke had engaged in four separate conversations with LittleKittie13, with one lasting over an hour.
Det Garda Collins said O’Rourke had provided his business email 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.
Det Garda Collins said when arrested, 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, Det Garda Collins agreed that O’Rourke was “non-sophisticated” and “naive” in the way he had made no attempt to disguise his identity from LittleKittie13.
He agreed that O’Rourke’s use of chat rooms was predominantly for engaging with adult females and that he had never suggested any physical meeting with LittleKittie13.
There had been no report of any inappropriate use of chat rooms by O’Rourke since the last offence in October 2017, the court heard.
Although the offences were not at the highest level of crimes involving child pornography, Det Garda Collins said they still contained sexualised talk.
At his sentencing hearing, Judge Patrick Quinn said the latest report on O’Rourke described him as somebody who is deeply remorseful and shameful of his behaviour.
Judge Quinn said O’Rourke was at the outset a retired garda sergeant and pillar of the community.
“All of this has now disappeared obviously,” he added, “and he comes to the court a man who has been effectively shamed”
He sentenced O’Rourke to 18 months suspended for the two charges of the production of child pornography while also taking the counts of using information and communication technology for the sexual exploitation of a child into consideration. He said the sentences run concurrently.