A former teacher has been spared a criminal record as well as a jail sentence for indecently assaulting an eight-year-old boy in the 1960s.
At Dublin District Court today, Judge Anthony Halpin described as “unacceptable conduct” the victim's decision to make a criminal complaint after he received compensation from his abuser in civil proceedings.
Outside court, the victim said: “At one stage in the court I felt like a criminal, I honestly felt like a criminal.”
The Director of Public Prosecutions had directed that the case should only proceed in the district court if there were a guilty plea, otherwise the accused would have to go before a jury trial in the circuit court, which has tougher sentencing powers.
The pensioner, who is in his mid-seventies, pleaded guilty to a single count of indecent assault of the boy at a location in north Dublin.
Garda Sergeant Liam Donoghue told the court the boy had been invited to the man's house where he was blind-folded. He was brought around the room and asked to touch objects including furniture until the teacher got him to touch parts of his body.
The court heard he got the child to put his hand around his penis and masturbate him.
Judge Halpin said he noted the accused was remorseful and his guilty plea meant a jury trial was unnecessary.
He said that in considering the penalty he had to take into account all that the accused had no previous conviction. “He has been living under the threat of being reported for his crime and that threat is crystallised in the form of these proceedings,” the judge said.
He said his order was, “facts proved, strike out”. This means the court has recorded his guilty plea but has spared him a criminal record as well as possible jail sentence for the crime.
The victim did not have to give evidence and he sat in the courtroom as the judge gave his decision yesterday (MON) . After the case concluded he said the abuse incident “impacted on every aspect of my life in some form or fashion. It has never gone away.”
He said gardaí had shown him great empathy as “I told the them the facts, I did not hide anything”.
However, in relation to the ruling yesterday (MON), he said, “At one stage in the court I felt like a criminal, I honestly felt like a criminal. I understand that I should have done things in a different order but had I done so, I do not think he would have pleaded guilty.”
Finalising the case Judge Halpin had said: “ The actual offence occurred in 1963, over 50 years ago. There has been a considerable passage of time and such a passage of time as to affect the carriage of a case before the court, as well as the memories and recollections of those involved in the case.
“Accordingly,” he said, “a plea of guilty removed significant difficulties and problems which the prosecution might have encountered as well as no doubt obviating the necessity for a jury trial and the costs involved.
“The victim in this case received and accepted compensation from the accused some ten or 12 years ago and now, some 50 years on, and having accepted compensation from the accused, he initiated a complaint of sexual assault against the accused.
“This is unacceptable conduct on the part of the victim. Where an offence occurs and the victim comes to a decision to deal with that offence, the criminal remedy takes precedence over the civil settlement of the case.
He said the crime is: “Against society as a whole rather than the individual victim”. "The victim is obliged to go to the gardaí about the incident, this victim did not, in fact it is some ten to 12 years later that the victim has made a complaint," he said.
He said victims in Ireland get huge support under the guise of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 as amended by the Criminal Procedures Act 2010, permitting them to furnish victim impact statements to the court.
Judge Halpin said the courts recognise that victims have rights, but he said, "with rights come duties, the first and primary duty of the victim is that of reporting an offence."
Equally, the judge said, by virtue of section 38.1 of the constitution and article 6 of the charter on human rights, the accused "is entitled to trial in due process of law".
Judge Halpin said he noted the accused's remorse and that he had pleaded guilty. He said, “the aggravating factors of the case in the main are astoundingly against the victim."
He said there were three reasons for this: 'Not reporting the case in a timely fashion, accepting compensation obviated the obligation to report and allowing over a decade to elapse before reporting the matter.”
"I must now consider the penalty. I must take into account all said on the part of the accused, no previous convictions, he has been living under the threat of being report for his crime and that threat is crystallised in the form of these proceedings."
He said defence solicitor Dara Robinson had informed the court of his client's “fulsome remorse”.
“In my mind it is sincere and genuine, this has influenced me greatly. I do not know or can't speculate why the victim took the course of action which he did, that has also influence on my decision,” Judge Halpin said.
— Tom Tuite