Judge calls for study on sentencing of elderly as man, 78, jailed for 10 years for sex offences

By Declan Brennan

A High Court judge has invited a prison reform body to carry out a study on the sentencing of elderly people.

Mr Justice Paul Butler made the comment before sentencing a 78-year-old serial child abuser for repeated sexual assaults on a 13-year-old boy.

Patrick O'Brien pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to 15 counts of sexual assault, many of which involved oral and anal rape of the child. He also admitted three counts of committing acts of gross indecency.

The offending took place at O'Brien's home at Knocklyon Road, Templeogue, Dublin and other locations in the city on dates between April 2002 and December 2003.

Mr Justice Butler described the abuse as persistent and appalling. He said a harrowing victim impact report showed the abuse had had a profound effect on the victim.

Imposing a ten-year custodial sentence for the rape attacks, Mr Justice Butler said it was very difficult to sentence a man of this age and suggested that the Irish Penal Reform Trust should carry out a study on the sentencing of elderly people.

O'Brien, a former Church of Ireland lay worker, is currently serving a 13-year jail term imposed in 2016 for the rape and molestation of 14 young boys over the course of 40 years.

In 1989, he received a suspended sentence for the sexual assault of a ten-year-old boy in 1982.

The sentence imposed today will run concurrent to the sentence he is already serving and is backdated to December last (2017).

The court heard that the victim was confused about his sexuality at the time and had met a man 20 years older than him. This man, who is before the courts, introduced the victim to O'Brien and brought him to his house in Templeogue.

In a statement, the victim said that the sexual activity with O'Brien changed his idea of normality. He said he felt it was normal at the time but later realised it wasn't.

“I felt degraded and dirty,” he said.

Sean Guerin SC, defending, told the court that his client had attended hundreds of hours of therapy and group therapy while in custody at Arbour Hill prison. He said O'Brien also participated in Sunday services as a choir singer and assisted in a prison education programme.

He said O'Brien will be in prison until the age of 87. He said there was no offending for a period after O'Brien's conviction in 1989 and this demonstrated his client's capability for rehabilitation.

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