By Isabel Hayes
A Christian brother who sexually abused four young boys he was teaching over 40 years ago has been jailed for six and a half years.
The 71-year-old man, who can’t be named for legal reasons, is currently serving a five and a half year sentence for indecently assaulting five other boys in the late 1970s. He has about 45 previous convictions for indecent assault.
Last month the man was found guilty by a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury of nine counts of indecently assaulting four boys on dates between 1976 and 1978 when he was their fourth class teacher at a CBS school in Leinster. He had denied the charges and does not accept the jury verdicts.
Three of his four victims had victim impact statements read out in court at a sentence hearing last week. One man, who was repeatedly beaten with a leather belt before being sexually assaulted by the teacher, said giving evidence in the case was traumatic and one of the most difficult experiences of his adult life.
“You put me through hell all over again and showed no remorse,” the man said to his abuser.
The court heard the teacher abused the child over a dispute on the method of doing long division – frequently keeping him back in the class during break before pulling down his trousers and underwear, beating him with a strap and attempting to anally rape him.
This victim said he started wetting the bed, had night terrors and insomnia in the wake of the abuse.
“I thought school was a safe place and I held my teachers in high esteem,” the man said. “You took away my innocence and put the fear of God in me.”
He said his mother blamed herself for not protecting her son when he disclosed the abuse to her as an adult.
All of the men described difficulties throughout their life as a result of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the man, including depression, anxiety and relationship issues.
A local sergeant garda told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that in the case of the other three victims, the teacher indecently assaulted them by putting his hands down their trousers.
In the case of one boy, the teacher called him up to the board to do sums before putting his hands down his trousers and touching his penis.
This occurred in front of the class, while the boy had his back to his classmates, the court heard.
The victim in this case said it “felt like eternity”at the time.
The four complainants disclosed the abuse between 2019 and 2020, the court heard.
The man was out of the jurisdiction at that point, but he returned voluntarily and cooperated with gardaí.
He denied all the allegations against him.
Ronan Kennedy SC, defending, said his client went on to work in a number of other schools in his career and no other complaints were made against him from those jobs.
He also worked in other areas, including in the Christian Brother missions abroad.
A number of testimonials were handed into court, including one from a former pupil from a different school who recalled him as “firm but fair”, “approachable” and “generous with his time”.
Mr Kennedy submitted to Judge Elma Sheahan that prison is more difficult for older people and handed in a governor’s report stating the man is a “model prisoner”.
He is involved in various activity groups in prison and “helps other prisoners with their problems”, defence counsel said.
He has suffered depression in recent years and has other health issues, the court heard.
Mr Kennedy asked the judge to be as lenient as possible given the mitigating circumstances in the case.
“He is a person who has helped other people in many guises throughout his various ministries,” he said.
Sentencing the man today, Judge Sheahan said the child victims were treated with disregard and disdain by someone who had the respect of his peers and the community.
She said that while corporal punishment, a feature in the case, was lawful at the time, the damage done to a child who is sexually abused by someone held in high regard was a heavy burden for each victim.
She noted the particular degradation and humiliation of the man’s abuse of one of the children and said that the maximum penalty of two years for indecent assault, which was the law at the time, was not enough to meet the level of offending in that case.
She said for this reason she would impose some of the sentences on a consecutive basis.
Noting the repetitive nature of the offending, she set a headline sentence of seven years and three months.
She noted that the man has not shown any remorse but she said she was obliged to consider the totality of the sentence imposed.
She reduced the total sentence to six and a half years to run from the date of conviction last month.
She noted that the accused is already registered as a sex offender and has engaged with the prison system and with others in the prison setting.