Church volunteer jailed for sexual abuse

A former lay worker with the Church of Ireland has been jailed for 13 years for the rape and molestation of 14 young boys over the course of 40 years.

Church volunteer jailed for sexual abuse

Patrick O’Brien, aged 76, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 48 sample counts of indecent assault and three counts of sexual assault of the boys.

The offending took place between 1974 and 2013 at numerous locations throughout the state including Kildare, Westmeath, on a boat in Loughrea in Co Galway and at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin where he worked as a volunteer.

In 1989, he received a one-year suspended sentence for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in 1982.

O’Brien, of Knocklyon Rd, Templeogue, Dublin, was sent forward for trial from Dublin District Court in 2015 where Judge Cormac Dunne ruled the media could identify the accused following an application by RTÉ.

All of the victims wish to preserve their anonymity. Four victims were present in court for the sentence hearing.

A number of victim impact reports were prepared but not all the men wanted their statement to be read out.

It took over 30 minutes to read out the charges at the original sentence hearing that took place last month over two days to allow for all 14 statements of complaint to be read into the record.

Judge Melanie Greally said the ages of the victims ranged from seven to 16 years old.

She noted one victim was abused on a single occasion with the longest duration of abuse being seven years. The mildest form of abuse was kissing with the most extreme being forceful anal penetration.

She noted that no location could be considered safe by the children and the presence of nearby adults or parents did not afford the victims any protection from O’Brien’s “predatory actions”.

Judge Greally said every one of the victims had suffered consequences as a result of the abuse in specific and individual ways.

In sentencing O’Brien, she said she was taking into account aggravating factors including the gravity of the sexual misconduct, the length of time involved, the ages of the victims, the nature of his grooming techniques, and the breach of trust involved.

She said in mitigation, she was taking into account the guilty plea, O’Brien’s co-operation with the investigation, his health issues, and expression of remorse.

Judge Greally imposed consecutive sentences totalling 13 years which she backdated to July.

Speaking outside court, Detective Superintendent Declan Daly said he would like to commend the bravery and resilience of all the victims who had gone through a harrowing and difficult case.

“I hope their bravery will send a message to all other victims who may come forward in historical cases and report their complaints to An Garda Síochána,” he said.

Following sentencing, the Church of Ireland yesterday issued a statement: “St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and the wider Church of Ireland community have been deeply dismayed at the nature and extent of the offences which have been brought to light in the case involving Patrick O’Brien, who was sentenced today. The Church commends the courage of Patrick O’Brien’s victims in coming forward.”

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