Centre hits out at child abuser’s sentence

More consideration was given by the judge to sex abuser Tom Humphries than to his victim, according to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC).

Centre hits out at child abuser’s sentence

The organisation’s CEO Noeline Blackwell made the claim after the former sports journalist was jailed for two and a half years for grooming and sexually abusing a teenage girl.

Ms Blackwell hit out at the leniency of the sentence and said that, from her reading of Judge Karen O’Connor’s comments, it “certainly seemed that the impact on the victim and the victim’s family did not weigh all that heavily on her”.

“The length of the sentence is disappointing from our point of view,” said Ms Blackwell. “From reading the judge’s comments, it seems she gave a lot of time and thought to the impact the crime had on the perpetrator and less time to the impact it had on the victim and her family. There must be balance in this regard.

“The victim did tell the judge, he [Humphries] had taken away her childhood. The judge, who stands in for all of us in society, gave him a lenient sentence.”

She also commented on the two character references that were written for the convicted paedophile, saying they were an important part of a criminal trial.

“In relation to the letters, on one hand, it’s a normal part of any criminal trial,” said Ms Blackwell. “The perpetrators are people we regard as normal, doing good jobs, they volunteer in their community, they come from all walks of life, they are not this ‘other’.

“It’s important we have ways to report these crimes by people who look just like our neighbours or are our neighbours.”

Ms Blackwell said the conviction showed victims who are considering reporting similar crimes they will be believed, even when there is a “huge disparity of power” between them and the perpetrator.

She also pointed out that the DPP does have the capacity to appeal the sentence.

In passing sentencing, Judge O’Connor said the age and status disparity between Humphries and his victim were aggravating factors.

“This was a schoolgirl compared to an eminent, highly respected sports journalist,” she said.

However, she said the most important aggravating feature was the impact the abuse had on the girl. The judge said the injured party had required counselling and was plagued by feelings of self-hatred and guilt.

She assured the victim that nothing was her fault.

“I’m not of the view that she allowed herself to be manipulated; I’m of the view that she was manipulated,” said Judge O’Connor.

However, she added that it would be difficult not to have “some sympathy” for Humphries at his dramatic fall from grace.

“Mr Humphries has lost his reputation, his livelihood, and most of his friends,” she told the court.

“He is clearly remorseful and demonstrated that by his guilty pleas.”

The judge also pointed out that it is “a truism that the larger the profile or success of a member of society, the greater the fall”.

Following sentencing, acclaimed sports writer David Walsh, who faced severe criticism for writing a court character reference for Humphries, said he apologised unreservedly for “insensitive and ill-judged” comments he made about the Humphries case in a 2012 radio interview.

In a statement released through the Press Association, Mr Walsh said he “unequivocally” condemned what Humphries did and said he had “every sympathy” for the victim. He said he wrote the character reference because he was a friend of Humphries, not because he condoned his crimes.

Former Cork hurling goalkeeper Dónal Óg Cusack, who also wrote a court character reference for Humphries, issued a statement on Twitter in which he confirmed he had told Sports Minister Shane Ross he was standing down from the board of Sport Ireland “with immediate effect”, as he did not wish “any controversy” to detract from the board’s work. He also confirmed he would not be returning as coach of the Clare hurling team in 2018.

Mr Cusack had previously condemned the crimes and apologised for “any hurt or offence” he had caused by writing the reference.

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