Scottish man who took ‘up-skirt’ photos on Luas has sentence reduced on appeal

A Scottish man who was caught by an off-duty garda taking “up-skirt” pictures on the Luas and was later found with hundreds of thousands of similar images, along with an “extremely explicit” child abuse video, has had his five-and-a-half year prison sentence reduced by nearly two years.

About 20,000 images of women and girls’ legs, groins and buttocks, including “up-skirt” photos of schoolgirls, were found on the mobile phone of Paul Boyle (46) when an off-duty garda spotted him acting suspiciously on the Luas in December 2019.

A subsequent Garda search of Boyle’s home at Sandyford View, Blackglen Road, Dublin 18, found hundreds of thousands of similar images.

At the Court of Appeal on Friday, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, on behalf of the three-judge court, said the original sentence was “excessive to the point that there was an error in principle”.

The judge pointed out that the original sentence consisted of five years for a count of harrassment and three years for a count of possession of child pornography. The two sentences were to run consecutively, but the final two years and six months were suspended, leaving Boyle with a custodial sentence of five years and six months.

Mr Justice McCarthy said the appeal court found that the harassment fell within the lower category, as it did not include violence or the threat of violence and the intention was not to “exploit the emotional attributes of the victims such as might occur in a case, for example, of an individual who is hostile to a former partner.”

The court arrived at a sentence of five years in total for all the offending and suspended the last 16 months for two years, leaving Boyle with a custodial sentence of three years and eight months.

‘Wholly disproportionate’

At the Court of Appeal last Tuesday, Professor Tom O’Malley SC, for Boyle, said the sentencing judge erred in that he “did not identify a suitable headline sentence, followed by an appropriate reduction in respect of mitigation”.

Prof O’Malley said his client was appealing on the basis that the sentence imposed on the child abuse material count was “wholly disproportionate”, given that the charge related to a single video.

Boyle’s lawyers also submitted that the harassment sentence was “excessive” and that it “failed to reflect relevant case law”.

The appellant’s lawyers further submitted that the use of consecutive sentences was also “excessive”, that a psychological report was not given appropriate consideration and that the overall sentence was too high, “offending the principles of totality”.

It was also submitted that there had been “no extortion, blackmail or threats” involved in the offending and that the offences were not aimed at causing distress to the victims.

“In fact, there was no contact with the victims and those who learned of it did so only from the investigation,” Boyle’s lawyers submitted.

Prof O’Malley further submitted that the trial judge had acknowledged Boyle’s “genuine remorse”, and his client’s plea of guilty but did not explain how the sentence had been structured regarding mitigation from the headline sentence.

Kate Egan BL, for the State, said not all persons in the 278,000 photos were identified, but this “does not mean they are irrelevant”.

“The trial court placed a weight on the overall amount of images,” Ms Egan said, adding that Boyle was “taking surreptitious photos of women’s groins, thighs and buttocks in public settings”.

Prof O’Malley said that a psychiatrist’s report said that his client had a disorder regarding voyeurism and described the three-year sentence, albeit with two-and-a-half years suspended for possessing the child pornography video, as “disproportionate in the extreme”.

In March 2022, Boyle pleaded guilty to harassment at a location in Dublin city between November and December 2019. He also admitted possession of a child pornography video at his home on January 28th, 2020.

In July 2022, Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Boyle to five years’ imprisonment for the harassment. On the count of possession of child pornography, he imposed a three-year term, to run consecutive to the harassment sentence.

However, Judge Nolan suspended the final two and a half years of the child pornography sentence and backdated it to when Boyle went into custody in March 2021.

Judge Nolan ordered that Boyle can never make any form of contact with any of the victims who he took images of and also imposed two years of post-release supervision.

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