A former meditation teacher has been jailed for three years for sexual attacks on a child in the 1970s.
Bernard Ward (aged 71) was working as a teacher at the Transcendental Meditation Centre in Dublin city when he abused a child who was attending the centre.
The victim and his parents had received training for the meditation technique at the centre and the child began working there at weekends when he was aged 10.
The trial heard evidence that Ward, of Knockmaroon Estate, Castleknock, Dublin molested the child in a shower room in the centre.
Ward had pleaded not guilty to three counts of indecent assault at the centre on Eccles Street, Dublin on dates between January 1, 1974, and December 31, 1977. After a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last March a jury convicted him, by majority, of these charges.
The jury acquitted him of a further charge of indecent assault at a different location in Dublin city centre between the same dates.
Judge Elma Sheahan said Ward's inability to accept the jury verdict and show any remorse indicated a complete lack of insight on his part. She said the offending lay at the mid-range of this type of crime.
She imposed consecutive sentences totalling three-and-a-half years and suspended the last six months. She said Ward's action were an abuse of trust given his position as a teacher in a place where the victim's parents saw it as “a place of safety”.
She noted Ward has a number of medical ailments and is now an elderly grandfather with a supportive family. He has no previous convictions, is married and has three adult children.
In a victim impact statement, which was read out in court, the injured party said he had lost out on so much in his life as a result of the sexual abuse. He said he was in and out of clinics as a result of the abuse but said he is proud to still be alive today.
“I was just a young boy who should have been kept safe,” he said.
James Dwyer SC, defending, asked the judge to take into account that the offending behaviour did not involve prolonged abuse, that his client had no other blemish on his character and that he was now an elderly grandparent with medical difficulties.
During the trial, the jury heard evidence that Ward had met “the Maharishi” in Switzerland in the mid-70s and taken part “almost as guinea pigs” in experimental meditation techniques.
Detective Garda Ronan Hobbs told Monika Leech BL, prosecuting, that the accused was working as a teacher in the centre when he invited the then 10-year-old victim into the shower with him while they were alone in the building and instructed that he clean him with a bar of soap.
Ward told the child to wash and then masturbate him. During a second incident, he again invited the child into the shower with him and told him to masturbate him.
On a third occasion, Ward asked the child to take his trousers down and proceeded to have oral sex. Ward had been walking around in a towel while smoking and his towel fell off while he was talking on the phone revealing his genitals to the child.
Det. Gda Hobbs said that years later the victim recorded a phone call to Ward during which he asked Ward if he remembered what had happened. Ward replied that he was not proud of what he had done and said he was going through an experimental phase.
When later interviewed by gardaí, Ward denied the allegations and claimed the recorded apology related to his smoking in the centre.