A former Marist brother and primary school teacher has been convicted by a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury of 35 charges of sexually abusing four young boys at a Sligo school over 40 years ago.
Christopher Cosgrove (aged 66) of Cloughreevagh, Ballyhaunis Road, Claremorris, Co Mayo, had pleaded not guilty to 55 charges of indecent assault at the school on dates between July 1, 1968 and June 30, 1977.
He had denied 14 charges in relation to the first two complainants, nine charges in relation to a third, 17 charges in relation to a fourth complainant and one charge in relation to another boy.
Judge Patrick McCartan had withdrawn 20 charges from the jury last Friday, which involved one charge in relation to the first complainant, all charges in relation to the second man and five charges in relation to the third complainant.
The jury of seven men and five women took seven-and-a-half hours to return unanimous verdicts on the remaining 35 charges on day-six of the trial.
Judge McCartan thanked the jury for their service in what he described as a hard and difficult case and excused them from jury duty for 10 years before he remanded Cosgrove on continuing bail to a date next May for sentence.
Cosgrove had previously been convicted of the sexual assault of these boys in Sligo Circuit Criminal Court but that conviction was later overturned in the Court of Criminal Appeal.
The third complainant told Ms Mary Rose Gearty SC (with Ms Dara Foynes BL), prosecuting, that Cosgrove would regularly call him up to the top of class, rub his legs, place his hand inside his shorts and fondle his “private parts”.
He said the brother would call him up to stand beside the teacher’s desk, or make him sit on his lap, “before he held me close to his body and close to his face”.
He told the jury that Cosgrove would then either play with his private parts or his back passage.
The man told the jury that at first the incidents did not happen too frequently but they later occurred two to three times a week or even a few times in the one day. “There was no set pattern,” he said.
He told Ms Gearty that Cosgrove would sometimes rub his face against his and he could remember the stubble and smell of body odour.
The man said he could also remember the second complainant being called up to the desk almost as much as himself and he could specifically remember this boy as he sat next to him in class.
He recalled that the accused wore a cloak “which he would sometimes use to cover me with to interfere with me”.
The first complainant told Ms Gearthy that Cosgrove class was “mayhem and madness with canings and beatings”.
He said if he cried after a caning, he would be taken to Cosgrove’s desk where he would rub his knee and rub his face up and down on his own face.
He said the accused would rub above and below his knee and up to his backside and around it. He described the incidents as occurring on a daily basis.
The man accepted that he had put the alleged abuse to the back of his mind in order to get on with his life but denied a suggestion from Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, (with Ms Siobhan Ni Chulachain BL) defending, that he “had blanked it out”. “I was always aware that this had happened to me,” he told the jury.
He said that he had flashbacks, which he described as the memory of the alleged abuse having “come back to haunt me”.
“The memories of the abuse in the school. What I became as a result of this man,” the complainant said.
He did not accept that he was mistaken and that nothing “untoward had happened”. “That’s not true,” he said.
A third man said he suffered both physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Cosgrove.
He told Ms Gearty that he was often brought up to the teacher’s desk and one time Cosgrove asked him for a kiss.
He said on another occasion the accused wrapped himself around him, put his arm around his waist, put his hands down his trousers and felt his private parts.
He told the jury that he was psychologically abused and also recalled being locked in a cupboard on one occasion.
The man said he had a “very vivid memory” of being continuously slapped across the face by his teacher, while the man was smiling at him.
When asked by Ms Gearty in re-examination if he was making these allegations “to obtain money”, the complainant replied “I am saying these things to obtain justice.”
He agreed with counsel that the gardaí had not told him what to say in his statement of complaint. “God no,” he said.
A number of witnesses testified before the jury that they had also been in Cosgrove’s class.
One man said he had witnessed the fifth complainant being brought up to the desk where he was placed on the teacher’s knee who then felt the child’s private parts.
Another man said the second and third complainant spent most of their time up at Cosgrove’s desk.
He said he could not see what was happening but said they were up nearly every day and stayed there for a long time.