Former Sussex Police officer spared prison over online child rape fantasy

Former Sussex Police detective Dominic O'Brien outside Crawley Magistrates' Court
Former Sussex Police detective Dominic O'Brien outside Crawley Magistrates' Court

A former police detective who shared a fantasy online about raping a child has been sentenced.

Dominic O’Brien, 52, of Rosemary Avenue, Steyning, appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Monday.

The court heard O’Brien discussed what he wanted to do with a woman named ‘Tracy’, who he believed to be the mother of an 11-year-old girl. But she was in fact an undercover police ‘operative’ from the Leicestershire force. Richard Barton, prosecuting, told the court that O’Brien had resigned from Sussex Police shortly before he was due to face a disciplinary panel over similar but real-life claims.

As a detective inspector involved in a murder case, he was accused of trying to meet the victim’s widow and groom her 15-year-old daughter for sex.

O’Brien pleaded guilty to attempting to publish an obscene article.

He said that he ‘was only communicating with “Tracy” on the basis of a fantasy’, Mr Barton told the court.

David Osborne, defending, said that despite leaving Sussex Police under a cloud, he was a man of good character who had no previous convictions and no ‘adverse’ findings against him. He had been a customer services manager for Adur and Worthing councils, in West Sussex, but now worked for a family firm, the court heard. Mr Osborne said: “It’s a very crushing experience, completely embarrassing and it’s brought up matters from 12 years again.”

The barrister said O’Brien had sought help, his wife was standing by him and ‘he makes a solemn promise that he will not see the inside of a court again’.

Judge Mark van der Zwart said talking about ‘raping a small child’ was ‘an appalling conversation’ and ‘an offence so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified’. The judge gave O’Brien a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and added: “I am persuaded there is a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.”

O’Brien was ordered to complete 200 hours’ unpaid work, 20 rehabilitation days, pay £450 costs and a victim surcharge of £115.

The judge added: “This sentence is designed to be a mixture of punishment and rehabilitation. If you breach these orders or commit any further offence, it is likely that I will commit you to prison for six months.”