A Co Down man caught with half a million indecent images of children was remanded in custody and will be sentenced next month.
Brendan Joseph McNally (46), of Dunville Link in Holywood, today pleaded guilty at Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, to 10 charges of making indecent images of children, five charges of possessing indecent images and three charges of possessing a prohibited image of a child.
According to the court papers, the offences were committed on dates between May 2, 2018, and June 11, 2019.
During today’s plea hearing, defence barrister Conan Rae referred Judge Geoffrey Miller QC to a number of recent sentencing cases in England which were disposed of by way of non-custodial sentences.
At Oxford Crown Court, a pensioner caught with 500,000 indecent images and videos received a two-year sentence, suspended for two years.
The sentencing judge in that case said the defendant “richly deserved” jail time, but it was in the public interest for the defendant to complete a rehabilitation programme to stop him from reoffending.
In another case, in Manchester, a defendant received a 20-month sentence, suspended for two years, for possessing 11m indecent images.
Mr Rae said that, in recent times, courts in Northern Ireland dealing with such cases took a “constructive sentencing view” to those who plead guilty in an effort to tackle their future risks by way of community-based orders.
The defence barrister told the court that, as a result of these offences coming to light, Mr McNally had been forced to leave his family home.
He confirmed to the court that Mr McNally and his wife remain together but are living apart “because of the consequences of his actions”.
“This defendant feels very acutely that it is his ultimate responsibility for bringing these troubles to his family,” said the defence barrister.
“He is very conscious that he has brought a world of pain to his family and his wife in particular by his actions.”
Mr Rae said the court could deal with the case by “combining retribution with deterrence” with a community order and not impose an immediate custodial sentence.
“Or the court could consider a custodial sentence, which would not interfere with his liberty immediately,” he added.
Addressing Mr McNally, Judge Miller said: “This is a very difficult and sensitive case.
“Five hundred thousand images, which is what I am effectively dealing with in this case, is the highest number I have encountered in several years.
“There are a number of issues I want to dwell upon and to consider. I therefore want to reserve my consideration.
“You will be remanded in custody to appear before me on August 9 for the purposes of sentencing,” the judge added.