Woman who was lured into relationship with man when she was 14 awarded €300k by High Court

Sinead Lay. Pic: Collins

A 32-year old woman who sued, claiming she was groomed by a bus driver when she was a schoolgirl and later allegedly sexually assaulted by him, has been awarded €300,0000 by a High Court Judge.

Sinead Lay, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said, was just 14 years of age in September 2000 when she was "lured into a close relationship" with Fergus Delaney who was in his late 30s.

The judge made the award in the case brought by Ms Lay which was undefended and before the High Court for assessment of damages.

Sinead Lay, Monasterevin, Co Kildare, had sued Fergus Delaney, (now in his mid-50s) of Allendale Lawns, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow claiming she was severely traumatised and suffered life-long consequences as a result of the alleged sexual assaults when she was a schoolgirl.

She had claimed Mr Delaney, who was a former neighbour of hers when she lived in Tallaght, Dublin, had misused his position of authority to lure her into a close relationship and when she moved with her family to Co. Kildare in September 2000, he began to text her and later allegedly sexually assaulted her on several occasions between November 2000 and August 2001.

Making the award today, which includes €50,000 in punitive damages, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said he fully accepted everything Ms Lay said in evidence to the court as true.

"None of this is or was her own fault," the judge said.

"She was not of an age, in any way, to consent to the attention given or what was done to her."

"The only person responsible is the defendant."

The judge praised Ms Lay for her courage in giving evidence to the court and said she was entitled to be compensated for the grooming and all of the assaults and for the disruption and ruination of her life for the last 20 years.

He said he hoped coming to court would be of assistance to Ms Lay's recovery and noted she has a supportive family and has been in a supportive relationship for the last five years and has returned to study.

Mr Justice Cross said Delane,y who used to be her neighbour in Tallaght and the uncle of a friend, engaged in a grooming exercise in relation to the then 14-year-old girl, "first by commenting on her appearance' then "lured her into a close relationship with him".

After she moved to Kildare, he texted her and she met him and he kissed and fondled her. The judge said the girl was lonely in school and the defendant put pressure on her to return to her Dublin school and he would collect her.

In August 2001, Delaney collected the girl from school and drove to an isolated spot in the Curragh where a sexual assault took place.

Judge Cross said the girl's mother became concerned about who was texting her daughter and the girl told her mother what had happened and they went to the gardaí. The man continued to text, the judge said, and when the girl was in Dublin with her mother he met her and brought her to his home.

When her mother became suspicious and went looking for her daughter the man answered the door in his boxer shorts.

At one stage, the judge said, the girl wrote to the man apologising about the gardaí and expressing love but the judge said this "demonstrated the extent of the manipulation of her and nothing more".

Ms Lay, the judge said, had suffered an ongoing depressive disorder. On the application of Deirdre O Donohue BL instructed by solicitor David MacMunn, the judge also awarded the costs of the proceedings against Mr Delaney.

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