Former scout leader gets three months for sexual abuse of teenage neighbour 38 years ago

Former scout leader gets three months for sexual abuse of teenage neighbour 38 years ago
James Leddy. Pic: Collins

A former scout leader who sexually abused his 13-year-old neighbour has been jailed for three months after he said he cannot recollect the incidents but fully accepts his guilt.

James Leddy (aged 55) of Sheephill Avenue, Blanchardstown, Dublin, was found guilty of three counts of indecently assaulting Colm Bracken (aged 51) at Leddy’s former home on Maryfield Avenue in Artane on dates between May and September 1981.

Leddy had pleaded not guilty but was convicted on all counts by majority verdict after a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last December. Mr Bracken waived his right to anonymity.

Judge Pauline Codd sentenced Leddy to eight months in prison but suspended the final five months on strict conditions including that he engage with the Probation Service for those five months.

The judge had adjourned the case last July after Fiona Murphy SC, defending, told her Leddy had no recollection of the offences but accepted the verdict of the jury and knew he must take responsibility for his actions.

However, Judge Codd cited a previous Probation Service report saying that Leddy “adamantly denies” his guilt, and said she could not pass sentence without clarity on Leddy’s position.

Today, Ms Murphy said Leddy is aware of the emotional and mental torment he caused Mr Bracken and is “genuinely remorseful that he has caused this”.

“His genuine instruction is that he has no recollection of it but he fully accepts guilt and offers a full apology,” Ms Murphy said.

Judge Codd stated that she was bound by the law which existed in Ireland at the time of the offending in 1981 which sets a maximum sentence of two years. She noted that this is the maximum term regardless of whether the abuse involved violence, degradation, oral or anal rape, or molestation of children.

Judge Codd referred to Mr Bracken's victim impact report as “eloquent” during which he outlined having experienced suicidal thoughts as a result of the abuse. She said he described it as “a living nightmare, like a nightmare movie on a loop”.

He was hospitalised at different times during which he was on suicide watch and Mr Bracken also spoke in his statement of how he found the “trial process unbelievably hard and distressing”.

Judge Codd said the long-lasting detrimental effects on Mr Bracken “was evident throughout his evidence, his demeanour in court and his victim impact report”.

“He was very distressed on occasions and has suffered a profound sense of grief, pain and anger,” the judge said.

She noted that both men were minors at the time and said although the crimes have had a long-lasting effect on the victim, Leddy has in the meantime led “a pro-social life” and has never re-offended.

The judge also considered that the abuse occurred at a time in Ireland when there was “much repression and secrecy in relation to sexual matters”.

Judge Codd also noted that Leddy claimed he was abused himself at the time and that the this type of abuse “went on in the scouts at that time and was somewhat normalised in that regard”.

She also said there was “no mechanism by which the court” could have a contemporary understanding of Leddy's level of maturity as a 17-year-old or his overall psychological welfare.

She accepted that he was experiencing difficulties at the time as his father had died when he was eight years old and his mother was suffering under financial strain and depression as a result. He was often left at home alone and the family were “socially isolated”.

Judge Codd noted that Leddy is a married man with five children and that a number of references before the court referred to him as being a “trustworthy” and “a good family man”.

She took into account that he had mental health difficulties dating back to 2012 , that he now expressed his remorse and that he has been placed on the sex offenders register.

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