A judge yesterday spared a convicted paedophile from spending the next four months in jail.
At Ennis District Court, a solicitor said Joseph O’Brien, aged 62, was willing to take the jail sentence.
O’Brien, formerly of Pound St, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, is facing the jail time after breaching the terms of a four-month suspended sentence through failing to notify gardaí of a change of address under the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act.
Another condition of the suspended jail term is O’Brien would have no direct contact with children after a report stated he has a high risk of sex re-offending.
On December 22, at Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan issued a bench warrant for O’Brien’s arrest after he went missing following front-page press coverage of his case. He left his accommodation as a result.
O’Brien turned himself over to gardaí on December 27 and remains in custody since. Solicitor John Casey told the court yesterday “because of tabloid interest in the case, accommodation for Mr O’Brien is impossible”.
Mr Casey told Judge Durcan: “The difficulty is that Mr O’Brien doesn’t have anywhere to go. That is a real present and practical difficulty. He is hoping that this period of months in prison will allow him arrange somewhere to go.”
The solicitor said: “I appreciate that the public has to be protected but Mr O’Brien does have rights as well, and he will hopefully get accommodation in the meantime.”
Judge Durcan said: “I am not disposed to having this man locked up any further… I don’t want to see Mr O’Brien unnecessarily locked up. I think everyone is entitled to see the new year as a new year.”
He said: “What I would like is that this man can be released but obviously, there has to be assistance. The answer isn’t that this man is left in prison so that basically the media can’t get at him there.
“Everyone is entitled to see dawn leading to dusk and there should be a way of assisting this man.”
He continued: “I would expect that the media would treat this man with respect and I would hope that Mr O’Brien would receive the respect he deserves as every citizen deserves who has paid the price for what they have done. He stands in the same position as anyone and his respect is paramount.”
Addressing Mr O’Brien, Judge Durcan said he would adjourn the case for one week to allow the Probation Service liaise with Mr Casey to try to identify some accommodation for him.
He said: “If it is that you wish to spend the spring in prison, you can talk to Mr Casey about that. My preference, Mr Casey, is that this shouldn’t happen.”
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