COMMENT: Why are we Prosecuting this Innocent Recipient of Child Pornography?
While scrolling through my emails the other day, an Irish Times headline caught my eye – “Woman prosecuted for child porn she innocently received on WhatsApp.” Innocent is not usually a word used in conviction headlines so with my interest piqued, I clicked in to find what I assumed would be a reasonable explanation for such a conviction. That was not what I found; the article reported that 28 year old Omo Delpin Omorouyi had been convicted of possession of child pornography because she had been sent a 2 minute video on WhatsApp, by a man she knew only by his first name, and had failed to fully delete it.
In January 2018, unaware of the video’s contents, she began watching it but stopped when the nature of the video became apparent. She told the sender not to text her again. Omorouyi then deleted the video from WhatsApp but owing to the app’s automatic download feature, the video remained saved to her phone’s camera roll. Her phone was seized a month later as part of an unrelated search, of which she was not the target, from her Swords home. Following her arrest, Omorouyi told the Gardaí that she thought she had deleted the video and that she did not know what it was until she opened it. She pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography. Judge Codd recognised that it was not an offence not to report such footage to the Gardaí and acknowledged that Omorouyi was an innocent recipient.
Omorouyi received a 4-month suspended sentence and more importantly a criminal conviction. Her defence barrister Mr. Orange told the court that her ambitions to work in childcare were now destroyed as she would not be able to receive Garda vetting. She has dropped out of her social care course and now works in a fast-food restaurant.
I was incredulous upon finishing the article at the injustice that Omorouyi had endured at the hands of the Irish “justice” system. What more could she, as an innocent recipient, have done to avoid conviction? She played no role in the circulation of this material and thought she had deleted it from her phone. This woman was not at fault – her only crimes were receiving the message and having an app that automatically saves received videos. I fail to see any fault or responsibility on Omorouyi’s part.
This is an example of the DPP exercising its discretion to prosecute poorly – the purpose of such laws is to prosecute paedophiles, of which this woman is not. She now has a conviction that will impact upon her for the rest of her life – not only can she not get a job in her chosen field, but it is very difficult to find any employment with this type of criminal record.
This conviction is worrying in today’s world where three quarters of Irish adults use WhatsApp. Anyone of us could be the recipient of illegal material through no fault of our own and be liable for this kind of prosecution. It is worrying that the law is being used to prosecute this type of case.
The video in question shows the rape of a young child. The individual in the footage has since been identified as a man in Michigan, US, and has been convicted.
Irish justice has failed Omorouyi and it has failed the Irish public because this prosecution is not the type towards which we should be directing our limited resources. There are much more worthy prosecutions than this innocent recipient. We cannot stand by and let this be the standard of case that is prosecuted. We should be protesting this injustice as if it had happened to ourselves because the reality is that it just as easily could have.
Amy Doolan – Features Writer