Northern Ireland news

Former fireman escapes jail after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography

A Co Down man who was caught with just under half a million indecent images of children has been handed a combination order.

Brendan McNally - who admitted to police that the amount of images was "insane" - was made the subject of a two-year Probation Order and will also serve 100 hours community service.

The former fireman appeared at Downpatrick Crown Court via a videolink with Maghaberry. As he sentenced the 46-year old, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said the Probation Order would help McNally address his underlying issues.

McNally was arrested on June 11, 2019 when police searched his home at Dunville Link in Holywood.

Once inside the property, officers seized computer equipment and other devices which were analysed and found to contain both photographs and videos of children.

The court heard a total of 498,331 still images and 643 videos were located, bringing the total number of indecent images to 498,974.

Analysis of his computer equipment suggested that McNally viewed, downloaded and stored the indecent images over a seven-year period spanning from 2012 to 2019.

These images were accessed on Dark Net websites via a Tor browser, and McNally had renamed and catalogued some of the images into folders.

Following his arrest McNally was interviewed on a number of occasions. He admitted accessing the images, said the amount was "insane" and told police had become "obsessed" with the material.

He co-operated fully with police and admitted 17 offences including both making and possessing indecent images.

It emerged during today's sentencing that McNally had received threats as a result of his offending which has also resulted in the breakdown of his marriage.

Judge Miller noted that McNally had a clear criminal record, a "strong work ethic" and in the past had involved himself in charity work. Also noted was the remorse now expressed by McNally.

The Judge said: "Set against this background, the question must be asked as to why such a man would become involved in these particular illegal activities, and specifically to the extent he has."

Reports compiled on McNally revealed childhood trauma, and the abuse of both alcohol and cannabis in adulthood. The reports also indicate that his offending demonstrated "distorted reasoning and thinking."

McNally has spend time on remand for the offences and while Judge Miller said the custody threshold had been passed, he said both society and McNally would benefit from the rehabilitation offered by a Probation Order.

In addition to the imposition of the combination order, McNally was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for five years, and was made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for the same period.

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