High Court awards Limerick man €200k over abuse by neighbour

By Ann O'Loughlin

A 20- year old man who was abused as a child by a neighbour who threatened to slit the throats of his parents if he told, has been awarded €200,000 by the High Court.

Cian McCarthy was just seven years of age when he was first abused by his neighbour Pat O’Brien who lived across from the family home in Kilmallock, Co Limerick.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna said on a number of occasions the abuse was accompanied by threats against the boy's parents and siblings if he told what had happened.

The child, Mr Justice Hanna said, believed these threats and this "added to the sexual abuse an element of terror which must have impacted horribly on a child of tender years".

Cian McCarthy, Ballygibba, Kilmallock, Co Limerick had sued his neighbour Pat O'Brien (aged 67), Tankardstown, Kilmallock, Co Limerick for assault and trespass to the person on different dates between 2004 and 2006.

Liability was admitted in the case and the matter was before the court for assessment of damages only.

O'Brien pleaded guilty in 2008 at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to six counts of sexually assaulting Cian McCarthy and was sentenced to three years imprisonment with the last 18 months suspended provided he stay away from Kilmallock for 15 years.

The Court of Appeal later increased the sentence to five years with two years suspended providing O'Brien give a similar undertaking.

Opening the case Mr McCarthy's counsel Michael MacGrath BL said O'Brien did not accept the undertaking and after his sentence went back to live opposite the McCarthys, who had to build a high wall so their son did not have to see him.

In evidence, Cian McCarthy said O'Brien would come up behind him and would kiss and fondle him. He said O'Brien did it in his own house and also once in the MCarthy home when his mother had gone out to the shop.

"He said he would kill my mother and father if I opened my mouth. He said he would slit their throats. I was so young I believed everything that came out of his mouth," he said.

He said he eventually was able to tell another relative who in turn told his parents who called in the gardaí.

Making the award, Mr Justice Hanna said the abuse has had a continuing effect on Mr McCarthy to this day.

When O'Brien returned home to Kilmallock at the end of his sentence, the judge said he was within his rights. The judge said while he could not fault O'Brien in law for returning to the area, he could take into account the impact it had on Mr McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy's mother Mary, the judge said, had complained "rightly so" her son's childhood had been taken away by these assaults.

While Mr McCarthy, the judge said, was from a loving family the abuse must have interfered greatly with his development.

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