Judges call for a 'dose of reality' as men sentenced for child abuse images
Two Belfast judges have called for a "dose of reality" when considering the "untold horror" suffered by children whose sexual abuse is often broadcast over the internet.
Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland and Judge Geoffrey Miller QC were dealing separately with two cases at the city's Crown Court involving indecent images of child abuse online.
The courts have often said that crimes, such as the remote viewing of children forced to engage in sexual activity, have been wrongly perceived by offenders and the public alike as being "victimless".
But yesterday, Judge McFarland said the images were those of a "real person - and there needs to be a dose of reality about these type of cases".
Meanwhile, just down the corridor in Belfast's Laganside Courthouse, Judge Miller said offenders possessing and distributing such images must bear their "share of responsibility for this evil trade".
Both judges said what was being watched over the internet was children being robbed of "their innocence and being corrupted, depraved and devastated while being forced to engage in unspeakable acts".
Judge McFarland's comments came as he freed a one-time pillar of the south Down community - George Wilson (47), of Ballylough Road, Castlewellan - on three years' probation and ordered him to complete 100 hours of community service.
The father-of-three had just under 30 indecent images, mostly in Class C, the least offensive of abuse image classification.
Among the 17 offences he admitted, one involved a picture of a semi-naked youngster who Wilson claimed was a friend of his daughter's, photographed while sleeping.
Judge McFarland said while he accepted this "false story" was made to "ingratiate" Wilson, the picture was of "a real person and there needs to be a dose of reality about these types of cases".
"These are real images, real people, real children who have completely lost their innocence, brutalised, sometimes by their parents sadly, but also by other individuals and have been made the subject of this horrific abuse.
"They have been raped, they have suffered extreme degradation ... and of course the rape and abuse has been captured on camera and then spread to a wider audience to people like you," he said.
Judge McFarland said it needed to be realised that "we are not just talking about images, we are talking about real people, dealing with real abuse and dealing with the most appalling evil perpetrated against young people".
Judge Miller was dealing with a more serious case of a 32-year-old illegal immigrant who not only had almost 400 images, but also admitted paying a teenager to have sex with him. He was jailed for a total of three years.
Judge Miller told Rabin Thapa, who faces deportation to Nepal upon release, that "there can be no doubt that he knew precisely what age she was and he exploited her youth and vulnerability to serve his own sexual gratification".
However, he added, "a further cause for concern and clearly an aggravating feature is the range and number of indecent images" Thapa had on his computer.
Most were of pre-pubescent children, many images involving sexual activity, bestiality and sadism. Judge Miller said that by distributing such material, Thapa "bears his share of responsibility for this evil trade, which has brought untold horror to the child victims whose lives have been corrupted and devastated by those who have destroyed their innocence by forcing them to engage in these unspeakable acts".