Sunday Times journalist David Walsh has defended his decision to write a character reference for Tom Humphries, the former Irish Times journalist convicted of grooming a teenage girl to engage in sexual acts.

His decision was borne out of a 30-year friendship with Humphries, he said, in yesterday’s edition of the Sunday Times. “I wrote a personal character reference for Tom because we have been friends for 30 years and, despite the serious wrong he has done, I could not abandon him,” Walsh said.

He prefaced his statement with “The young girl whom Tom betrayed has suffered terribly from this crime”.

Last Tuesday, Humphries (54) of Corr Castle, Sutton, Dublin, pleaded guilty to grooming and engaging in sexual acts with a child, including sending her thousands of sexually explicit text messages before going on to meet her for sexual acts. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of defilement of the child at a place in Dublin between December 5, 2010 and February 19, 2011.

The court heard that Humphries made contact with the girl through his volunteer work with junior GAA sports teams.

After months of grooming the girl through text messages of an increasingly sexual nature, Humphries brought her to his flat where they engaged in oral sex when she was aged 16 and he was 47. There were repeated instances of these acts of defilement over the next 14 months.

The court heard the offending came to light in March 2011, when Humphries’ daughter asked him to donate an old mobile phone to charity. When she later turned the phone on she saw the texts of a “highly sexualised nature” to someone who appeared to be a young girl.

Forensic analysis by investigators of a number of mobile phones used by Humphries showed that over 16,000 texts were exchanged back and forth from him to the victim in the three month period ending in March 2011.

In her victim impact statement, the girl said she felt ashamed that she had allowed a man three times her age to manipulate her. She said Humphries’ actions have resulted in the loss of her childhood and of her trust in men.

Hugh Harnett SC, defending, handed in a number of testimonials to court, including statements from Mr Walsh and a “well known sportsman” about Humphries’ journalism career and involvement with GAA.

The sportsman wrote of Humphries’ previous good character and his activity as a volunteer in the GAA and expressed shock at his offending. Mr Walsh said Humphries was once a “hugely regarded and respected national figure”.

Mr Harnett said that his client has lost his job, his career, and his reputation. He said Humphries fell into depression. Medical reports stated that Humphries continued to present a very real suicide risk.


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