By Claire Henry
A former Christian brother who was convicted in October on 38 counts of indecently assaulting young boys has been sentenced to five years in prison.
The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victims, was found unanimously guilty after a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court deliberated for four hours and twenty-six minutes.
The former priest was described by one of the victims in his victim impact statement as “the epitome of evil”.
The court heard that the man was convicted of indecently assaulting five boys in the late seventies, when the boys were then aged nine and ten.
The accused pleaded not guilty to all charges. He has seven previous convictions, all for indecent assault.
Garda Sergeant James Neary told Patrick McGrath SC, prosecuting, that the accused was a Christian Brother who was teaching all five boys at the time of the assaults.
Gda Stg Neary said the accused summoned the first victim to his desk, which was located on a podium at the top of the classroom.
The boy was brought to the desk under the guise of reading practice.
He would be instructed to sit on his teacher’s lap or stand beside him.
The accused would then touch the boy’s genital area and bare bottom.
The court heard that on three occasions, the accused placed his finger in the anus of the boy.
This victim was also forced to touch the penis of the accused and masturbate him.
This occurred on an occasion when they were in a school gym, and the rest of the class was playing in another area.
The accused approached the second victim when he was sitting at his desk.
The accused would come up behind him and rub his back. He would then push his hands down the back of the boy’s pants.
This happened on five or six occasions, and the boy would try and push him away.
The third victim was also summoned to the accused desk, where he was made to practice reading aloud.
The boy would know what was about to happen and try his best to stand as far away as possible from the accused.
The boy would then be pulled close to the accused, and he would place his hand down the boy’s pants and under his underwear.
This would happen regularly. The boy would read as fast as possible to escape the accused.
The fourth victim was called to the accused desk and sat on his knee. The accused placed one arm around the boy’s waist, and he put his other hand into the boy’s underwear and rubbed his penis. On the first occasion, the boy froze, while on the second occasion, the boy tried to turn and get away from the accused.
The final victim was at his desk when the accused stood behind him, pulled the boy close to him, put his hand down the boy’s pants, and touched his bottom.
Three victim impact statements were handed into court. One victim read his own statement, with the prosecuting council reading the other statements. One statement read, “I was afraid, ashamed, and I felt alone in a class of forty.”
He also said that he “could not trust anyone for decades,” and added, “When you abuse a child, it doesn’t end when you take your hand from their pants.”
Another victim said the abuse had left him with “trust issues, especially with people in a position of power,” and that he “has anxiety issues”. He said, “It has had a lifelong effect on me.”
The third victim impact statement said, “All of the old memories came flooding back to me when I spoke with gardaí. For the past three years, my anxiety has been the worst it has ever been. He is the epitome of evil.”
Gda Stg Neary agreed with Ronan Kennedy, SC, defending, that the accused was living outside of Ireland when the complaints were made to gardaí and that he returned voluntarily for an interview.
Mr Kennedy handed many documents into the court outlining his client’s health issues. A prison Governor’s report was also given to the court, highlighting the accused as an excellent prisoner.
Character references were handed into the court from two friends of the accused who have known him for over fifty years each.
The letters describe the accused as someone who acted selflessly when dealing with others and as a person who was sincere and trustworthy.
Two former pupils also wrote character references on behalf of the accused, describing him as a teacher who stood out for his caring and support.
Counsel said all the individuals who supplied character references knew the accused had been found guilty of indecent assault.
Passing sentence yesterday, Judge Elma Sheahan said, “this offending has affected every facet of these men’s lives.”
Judge Sheahan said she must consider the “deep upset and distress of these grown men and the contents of their victim impact statements”.
The judge said the aggravating factors in the case were the seriousness and repetitive nature of the offending, the breach of trust and the age disparity between the accused and the victims.
The judge also highlighted that the accused was in a position of authority and the breach of trust that was carried out.
Judge Sheahan considered the following mitigating factors before sentencing; the accused’s medical issues, the governor’s report, which states he was a model prisoner, his cooperation with gardaí throughout the investigation and the character references handed into court.
Judge Sheahan sentenced him to five years and eleven months but suspended the final eleven months.