By Declan Brennan
A retired surgeon has been jailed for 20 months for sexual attacks on two teenage boys in the mid-70s.
Last month, a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court convicted Michael Shine (85) of indecently assaulting the two 15-year-old patients in a hospital in the mid-70s.
Shine, of Wellington Road in Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight charges of indecently assaulting six patients at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and at his private clinic, both in Drogheda, Co Louth, on dates between 1964 and 1991. He was acquitted on the remainder of the charges.
Judge Cormac Quinn said the severe breach of trust by a senior doctor at the pinnacle of his profession was one of the most aggravating factors. He said Shine had abused the trust of patients and the trust of the hospital.
He said the abuse occurred in places where the victims, who were children, were entitled to feel they were in a place that was safe.
Judge Quinn imposed consecutive sentences of 10 months for the indecent assault on each of the victims. The judge rejected an application from Shine's lawyers to give Shine a week to put his affairs in order and to marshal his medication.
The court heard that both victims were aged 15 when Shine groped them during medical examinations.
One victim attended at the hospital with an in-growing toenail. He told the trial that Dr Shine tied him to a bed with rubber bungee restraints and a blanket and then slipped his hand under the blanket and started massaging his testicles.
He said he knew it was weird but he thought “who was I” to speak out because he was “just a young boy”.
In his victim impact statement, this man said the assault had a profoundly negative effect on his life. He said his life changed from a time of youthful innocence to one of anxiety, insomnia and depression after the attack. He said Shine's blatant denials caused the case to drag on.
The second victim testified that during two follow-up examinations for undescended testes at Shine's private clinic in Drogheda, Shine massaged him intimately.
He told the court that for years he tried struggled with guilt, embarrassment and shame. He was confused about whether Shine's actions were wrong and convinced himself they were not.
“That is the insidious nature of sexual assault. It leaves you believing somehow you were at fault,” he said.
He said Shine used his position to take the opportunity to assault him and this was a great breach of trust. He said Shine's denials during the trial verified for him for the first time that what Shine did was wrong.
“I would like some recognition from Michael Shine that he knows what he did was wrong,” he said.
During the trial last month, Shine admitted seeing the two victims but denied anything improper had taken place.
Hugh Hartnett SC, defending, asked the judge to consider suspending in full any sentence he considered appropriate. He said that Shine's medical condition includes severe angina and he has received four heart stents.
He said that medical records stated that Shine was showing signs of age and was at a high risk of suffering from progressive dementia.
Mr Hartnett said his client's medical condition was perilous and imprisonment would be fatal and would be unnecessarily cruel four decades later.
Asked by Judge Quinn if Shine accepted the jury verdicts, counsel replied: “Well, he has been convicted”.
A Tipperary native Shine began practicing as a doctor in 1956, working in the Mater hospital before moving to the UK to work in hospitals there. On his return to Ireland in the mid-60s he took up a position in Lourdes hospital.
He was appointed to the position of consultant surgeon in 1968, a position he held until his retirement in 1995.
The jury acquitted Shine of four separate charges of indecently assaulting three other teenagers on dates in 1964, 1970 and and 1976. Shine denied ever seeing these patients and there were no medicals records to confirm that he had seen them on the dates of the alleged assaults.
An eighth count of indecently assaulting a sixth victim was withdrawn due to lack of evidence.
In imposing his sentence Judge Quinn said he was taking into consideration the mitigating factors of Shine's age and medical conditions. He also noted Shine's long and productive medical career and a number of character references handed into the court, which included testimonials from a retired nurse and a hospital consultant.