A former music teacher has today been sentenced to two years with one suspended for sexually assaulting a pupil at the accused’s Co Meath home 25 years ago.
Breffni O'Rourke (aged 64), who is now living in Ardglass Estate, Ferrybank, Waterford, was convicted by a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury last February on one charge of indecent assault of the girl in June 1987. He had pleaded not guilty to the offence.
The woman had stated in a victim impact report, heard at the sentence hearing last month, that O’Rourke’s “evil act” left her feeling “dirty and disgusting” and accused him of abusing his position of trust as her music teacher.
Judge Desmond Hogan said he was “deeply cognisant of the breach of trust that surrounds this case” but added that the law requires that he take into account the “lapse of time” between when the offence occurred and when it was dealt with by the court.
“The injured party was very young at the time and to a certain extent he had control over her as her music teacher. The trust that had been imposed on him by her parents was broken,” the judge said before he suspended the last 12 months of the term, taking into account O’Rourke’s previous good character.
Sergeant Karen Curley told Karen O’Connor BL, prosecuting, the victim was aged nine or 10 at the time of the offence.
She said O’Rourke had taught traditional Irish music to the victim and her family.
The court was told that O'Rourke was aged 39 at the time of the offence, which took place at his home in Co Meath.
O'Rourke took the girl into his bedroom, pulled her across the bed and pulled her trousers down. He pressed himself against her private area and she felt she couldn't breathe, the court heard.
The accused was wearing his trousers throughout the incident, said Sgt Curley.
O'Rourke – a married man – initially denied any wrongdoing and denied the allegation of indecent assault but has co-operated with gardaí.
In her victim impact statement, the woman said she found it difficult to put into words what she went through when she was a child.
She said she felt “alone and lonely” as she couldn't tell her family the details of what happened. Her relationships with her family have eroded as a result of the incident, she said.
She said it had a “crippling effect” on her self-esteem and she felt “dirty and disgusting”.
“I spent long periods wishing I was dead. I contemplated suicide and attempted it once.”
She said she had had a passion for traditional music, but now feels “nothing but fear” when she hears it, because of what happened.
“He was in a position of trust and he abused that trust,” she said, adding that she has suffered panic attacks and nightmares as a result of O'Rourke's actions.
She said when she is away she sleeps with a chair against a locked door as she always feels unsafe.
“This evil act was a few brief moments of self gratification but it has destroyed my life. I was robbed of my childhood and I will never get that back,” she said.
Defence counsel Paul Greene SC pointed out that the court was dealing with a “single incident where Mr O'Rourke was clothed”.
He said his client has no previous convictions and co-operated with the investigation.
“There has been a lapse, almost to the day, of 25 years from June 1987 to today,” said Mr Greene.
He handed in a number of testimonials on behalf of his client and said there was a “cohort of people who want to speak up for him”.
“He is a religious man. He leads a simple enough life,” he said.
Mr Greene indicated that his client does not accept the jury’s verdict and intends to appeal his conviction.