Letterkenny court house.
Gardaí found child abuse material on a misplaced hard drive found at Letterkenny Institute of Technology.
A student handed the device in to staff, who were left shocked when they connected the hard drive in an attempt to return it to the owner.
Gardaí were immediately alerted and Oliver Ferris (24) pleaded guilty to two charges under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998. Ferris appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court.
On March 16, 2018, Gardaí were contacted after horrified staff members located material depicting a fully-naked male child, estimated to be six years old.
Ferris was charged with haven a total of nine video files containing child pornography on the hard drive found on March 16, 2018.
He is further charged that on April 15, 2010 at Foxhills Carnamuggagh that he had in his possession child pornography 84 images and seven video files containing child pornography across three devices, along with 43 URLs.
The hard drive contained some course work and Ferris was tracked using a unique student iD number which was on the device.
The hard drive was sent for analysis and Gardaí were notified that child abuse material was located. Nine video files were located on the device, eight of which depicted the same male child, aged between 8-10, engaged in sexual activity, while another was described as a ‘compilation’.
A search warrant was obtained and Gardaí carried out a search of Ferris’ home, at Foxhills Carnamuggagh, on April 15, 2019. Ferris handed over a number of electrical items including an iPhone, an iPad and a MacBook computer.
Detective Garda Darren Carter told the court that on one device Gardaí found 79 images of boys aged from 5-15 engaged in sexual activity while they also located seven movie files which showed boys aged 5-15 engaged in sexual activity.
There were 43 URLs accessed on 59 dates. Web history on a MacBook seized showed that a number of categories selected from the website could be classified as child pornography.
Feris told Gardaí that he began to look at this type of material since he was 15 or 16 years of age. He said it was something he ‘looked at from time to time’, but said he was not addicted.
Detective Garda Carter said that Ferris, the founder of a web-based business, had an ‘advanced knowledge’ of computers.
“He had a knowledge of computers above and beyond most people,” he said.
Ferris admitted to Gardaí that he had downloaded the material from the dark web for his own pleasure and gratification. He told Gardaí that it was ‘the stupidest mistake and could ruin the rest of my life’.
Barrister for Ferris, Shane Costello SC, said Ferris had entered the earliest possible plea and had no previous convictions.
“There was no suggestion that he was distributing any of the images or the videos,” Mr Costello said, adding that Mr Ferris’ mother had left the jurisdiction after the incident, but had traveled back for the hearing.
Mr Costello told the court that Ferris was undergoing psychotherapy sessions and asked that the case be adjourned to the June session of the court.
Judge John Aylmer aid that the recently-commenced counselling should be let ‘take its course’ and asked that an updated probation report be prepared.
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