Walsh assault claims ‘a cry for help’

A former dance teacher was “crying out for help” when he made unfounded claims he was sexually assaulted by X Factor judge Louis Walsh, an appeal court was told yesterday.

Leonard Watters, aged 24, from Woodview, Navan, Co Meath, was given a six- month term in January at Dublin District Court but was released within minutes after he lodged papers to appeal the severity of the sentence.

The father-of-two had pleaded guilty to making up unfounded allegations that Mr Walsh sexually assaulted him in the toilets of Krystle nightclub, Dublin in Apr, 2011. He admitted he made false reports to gardaí at Harcourt Terrace Garda Station, on Jun 20 last and at his home on Jun 28 last.

His appeal came before Judge Katherine Delahunt yesterday at the Circuit Court in Dublin.

A lawyer for Mr Walsh was also present to keep “a watching brief on behalf of the complainant”.

Defence solicitor Cahir O’Higgins presented details on probation, psychological and psychiatric reports on Watters. He said his client was remorseful and has apologised publicly. Mr O’Higgins said Watters had engaged in self-harm and suicidal ideation.

He asked the court to note that when Watters was aged 11 he suffered severe burns to his face, limbs and abdomen. This affected his education and in school he struggled and became the “class clown” before failing his exams.

He received about €1m in compensation but spent the money on cars and holidays.

He was unable to keep up repayments on a house and suffered from alcoholism.

The lawyer said Watters, as a result of his false claims, has become regarded as a “Walter Mitty”. He said it has now been learned that Watters suffers from post- traumatic stress disorder in connection with the burns he suffered as a child.

The lawyer asked the judge to note that Watters no longer drinks, is involved in charity work, has been making efforts to get on to an educational course, and is committed to being a good father.

He said on the night he met Walsh he had become “starstruck” and his actions were described in court as “a cry for help”. On that night he had been “obliterated by alcohol” and acted in “the weirdest, strangest way”, said Mr O’Higgins.

In pleas for leniency, the court was asked to consider suspending the sentence or imposing a community service order. The judge also heard Watters is petrified at the prospect of being jailed.

The judge, who also has the power to increase Watters’s sentence, will give her decision on Friday.

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