Man to be sentenced for possession of 847 images of child pornography
A Polish national is to be sentenced at the next sitting of Donegal Circuit Court after he pleaded guilty to the possession of 847 images of child pornography.
Wojciech Odrobina, 10 Canal Drive, Prospect Woods, Longford previously pleaded guilty to the possession of 847 images of child pornography at the July sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Court this year in a prosecution led by State Solicitor, Noel Farrell.
At last week's sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Court, Sgt David Donnelly gave evidence of how the defendant had been identified. He said in 2013 an operation was conducted by the German police force into a child pornography website operating on the dark web.
The website featured graphic images of children being abused and operated as a platform where these images were shared and downloaded without charge.
A number of internet protocol addresses linked to those using this site were identified, one of which was traced back to Ireland.
Irish authorities were notified and a subsequent investigation led gardai to a an apartment in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Roscommon and a search was carried out under warrant on August 12, 2013.
There was no one in the property at the time but the search uncovered a number of external hard drives including some which were concealed in a laundry basket, and a laptop. All items were brought to the computer crime lab in Dublin for examination.
The defendant returned to Carrick-on-Shannon on August 28 and, believing his apartment had been burgled, contacted gardai.
When he arrived at the garda station Sgt Donnelly said Mr Odrobina was cautioned. The defendant later gave a voluntary interview where he provided gardai with passwords and codes to access the hard drives. He also confessed to downloading child pornography.
Sgt Donnelly said further investigation of the hard drives found a large number of images including images of “an extreme nature” which involved the “rape of babies” remaining on the hard drives.
He said the images included boys and girls with a range of ages from babies to older children with 847 pictures found in total.
He acknowledged some were of the genitals of children but added that others were of a more “extreme nature” and were “very graphic in their content”.
“The defendant had also downloaded a specific programme which is used to view and then delete these images from his (hard drive). However he had not managed to delete all the material and some (the 847 images) remained,” he said.
The defendant was later arrested and interviewed at Longford Garda Station and during this, he “made a full admission” about accessing and downloading the images.
He was then charged with possession of child pornography in relation to the images found.
“This is not the sort of website you can just stumble on,” said Sgt Donnelly in his evidence. “you need to actively search for it and you need a certain amount of computer knowledge to find it.
He noted Mr Odrobina was the sole occupant of the property searched in Carrick-on-Shannon.
“Since this offence (in 2013) Mr Odrobina has married and now has two young children - three and around 7 or 8 months. He is employed in Ireland as an architect at a large building firm and has no previous convictions,” said Sgt Donnelly.
He said that Mr Odrobina had downloaded the images “for his own use and there was no evidence of him sharing these”.
Mr Odrobina told the court that he was “very sorry” for accessing and downloading these images.
He described his own childhood as “a nightmare” and said that he and his sister were “under constant terror at home and beaten”.
He said he believed this was where his problem developed and said that he had was “too embarrassed of this shameful problem to seek professional help”.
He said there was a time when everything in his life was ok and he was not seeking out these images but he suffered an emotional collapse in 2012 after the death of his sister, and this, along with the impact of long term unemployment and depression, led to him offend.
“I am very sorry for that,” he told the court adding that he now realised that the images he downloaded were “of really abused kids”.
He denied having any computer skills to access the dark web and said it had been easy to find these images.
“I am not good at computers, I was not even able to delete (the images) that were there,” he said.
Asked to explain the content of the images he downloaded, Mr Odrobina said he could not understand the images of underage boys as he had been “searching for underage girls”.
He said he presumed some of the images were downloaded as part of packages and he had been unaware of their content.
Mr Odrobina voluntarily entered a treatment programme and participated in one-to-one therapy from 2014. Until recently he had met with his therapist in Dublin every second week but this had since been reduced as his therapist was of the view he “didn't need intensive therapy any more.”
Mr Odrobina said he will continue to have therapy every second month from now on.
He said that this therapy has helped him to understand the impact the abuse had on the children portrayed in the photos he downloaded.
He said the “strongest realisation (of the impact of his crime) was when I had my own kids. Christ how could I do this, what I was doing?”
“I experience a very deep shame and am feeling guilty all the time,” he said.
Mr Odrobina, who married in 2015, said he now believed he had the tools to deal with any further emotional crisis and said “I know how to control this”.
He described the impact the investigation and court appearances had on himself and his family.
He said his social life had been “reduced to zero” and said the stress of waiting nearly seven years for this case to come to court was “terrible”.
He was constantly afraid that others would find out he was in court and that his wife, who had been unaware of his offending when she met him, would discover this.
Following advice from his therapist he told his wife of the court case and said “this obviously had a huge impact but she has decided to stay with me”.
He was not happy about previous court coverage of his guilty plea noting that “everything in the press made it worse” and saying the reporting of his criminal behaviour had a negative impact on his family.
“I know this is a terrible crime, I want to deal with this, I want to be cured,” he insisted.
His Senior Counsel, Mr Smyth, directed by Gerard McGovern said that Mr Odrobina had no previous convictions and he asked that his client be dealt with “as leniently as possible”.
“Put whatever restrictions you want on me but let me stay with my family. It is good for them and for me. My wife is an epileptic and doesn't drive. I am the only one who can maintain the house and earn the money,” Mr Odrobina told the judge.
Mr Smyth noted that a probation report had put the defendant at “a low risk” of re-offending and said that, through therapy, his client had come to realise that there are victims of this crime.
“Now he is a father it has brought home to him in no uncertain terms what he did was extremely wrong,” said Mr Smyth.
“This case has been hanging over him for six years and has given rise to considerable anxiety, strain and stress.”
He asked the court to take into account that Mr Odrobina had taken steps to “rehabilitate himself” and the fact he is continuing with therapy where his therapist “will keep a close eye on him”.
“He has cooperated with this investigation fully,” said Mr Smyth adding, “this is something of great shame for him and his detection by gardai, in many ways, was the best thing that could happen to him.”
Mr Odrobina's employers were aware of his offences and were, said his barrister, “standing by him”.
He accepted the work of the courts “must be seen to be done in public” and that the press had a right to cover this case but said his client has now been “socially ostracised” and his “family have suffered”.
However he said that he was not trying to minimise the seriousness of the offence his client had pleaded guilty to.
Mr Smyth asked that Judge John Aylmer consider imposing a suspended sentence in this case.
Judge Aylmer said he wanted time to consider all factors in the case and he deferred sentencing to the December sitting of Donegal Circuit court.
Judge Aylmer further remanded Mr Odrobina on continuing bail until that sitting.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.