By Carl O’Brien in The Irish Examiner
POLITICIANS yesterday called for mandatory jail sentences for anyone caught with child pornography as the storm of protest grew over the sentencing of celebrity chef Tim Allen.
Earlier this month a man was handed a six-month jail term for similar offences to Mr Allen, who received a sentence of 240 hours’ community service.
Fine Gael’s justice spokesman John Deasy yesterday said the Ballymaloe chef had escaped with a lenient sentence and the law needed to be changed.
“Justice needs to be seen to be done, but it’s apparent that some members of the judiciary are unnecessarily lenient,” he said.
Support groups for victims of sexual abuse say the laws are not tough enough to combat the handling of child pornography.
Under the Child Pornography and Trafficking Act, all cases are heard before the District Court, which may issue a maximum 12-month sentence or €1,900 fine.
Mr Deasy said his party would be calling for amendments to the legislation, which would see pornography cases heard at Circuit Court level, where much tougher sentences can be handed out.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, in Mexico yesterday, said legislation would be kept under review.
A spokesperson for Justice Minister Michael McDowell insisted tough laws dealing with sex offenders showed the Government’s commitment to tackling these crimes.
The Director of Public Prosecutions will not be able to appeal the Allen sentence as legislation states that he cannot appeal cases heard at District Court level that are not held before a jury.
The perceived leniency of Mr Allen’s sentence led to thousands of calls to radio stations yesterday from people expressing their outrage. It was fuelled by the disclosure that a former teacher was sentenced to six months in prison in Balbriggan District Court earlier this month for downloading child pornography from the internet.
Judge Sean McBride said there would be no market for the images, which he described as the “work of the devil”, if it were not for people like the defendant.
In Naas District Court yesterday, another man was handed a three-month suspended sentence for possession of more than 80 images of child pornography. Darina Allen and her husband were back at work in the Ballymaloe cookery school yesterday.
She said she would stand by her husband and that both of them were strongly committed to continuing their business.