A COLERAINE man has been jailed for having what is believed to be one of the biggest ever stashes of indecent photographs recovered by police in Ireland.
Sean O’Connaill junior will spend the next nine months in prison after police swooped on his collection containing over 300,000 images.
Many of the photos depicted children under the age of three being abused. O’Connail also had more than 70 movie files containing pornographic material.
The 38-year-old had previously worked in Estonia and Poland teaching English to young people.
Antrim Crown Court heard on Friday that there were so many images on his laptop and hard drive that police were unable to categorise them.
O’Connail pleaded guilty to 45 counts of possessing indecent photographs, two counts of possessing extreme photographic images and eight counts of possessing prohibited images of children.
Of the images that police were able to categorise, 95 percent were said to be category one, the lowest on the scale of seriousness, whilst 3.4 percent were described as category two. The remainder were put into the more extreme third, fourth and fifth categories.
Described in court as a ‘loner’ by his barrister, Michael Smyth, O’Connaill came under the police spotlight back in July 2001.
Airport police became suspicious when they examined an unclaimed bag at Belfast City Airport.
The defendant had reported the bag missing a few days earlier after he had flown from the Ukraine to Heathrow Airport.
Inside it, police uncovered a white CD box with 21 DVDs, containing pornographic material, including scenes of child abuse and bestiality.
Searches were subsequently carried out at the house O’Connaill lived at with his parents, on Greenhill Road in Coleraine, an area close to DH Christie Memorial Primary School at Ballycairn.
During the search O’Connailll told police that an external hard drive containing more material was under the duvet on his bed. His laptop and an external hard drive were seized.
In a police interview, the former teacher admitted he had been collecting images for 10 years and got sexual gratification from them. His stash also showed a sick obsession with Harry Potter actress Emma Watson.
Barrister Michael Smyth told the court that O’Connail had been working in Eastern Europe as an English teacher.
Mr Smyth confirmed that checks had been carried out by the PSNI as part of their investigation and that no complaints had been made towards the defendant.
He said that at no time had O’Connaill distributed the images to anyone else.
Referring to a pre-sentence report, Mr Smyth said that O’Connaill – whose father was in court – had undergone “therapeutic work” with a Professor Cuningham and that on many occasions his parents had been present at these sessions.
Mr Smyth told the court that O’Connail had managed to persuade himself to look at the material as images and not as children.
Judge Devlin described O’Connaill’s crimes as “deeply disturbing and utterly squalid” .
“No one but someone seriously deluded would think that the children behind these images are victimless,” said the Judge.
Describing the material seized as “vile,” Judge Devlin said that the images showed “innocent children” who had been “exploited” and “robbed of their childhood.”
O’Connaill was sentenced to nine months in prison with three years on licence. He will also be subject to the Sexual Offences Prevention Order for the next five years.
The order prevents O’Connaill from using any device that can access the internet and from being in contact with anyone under the age of 18.