A judge ruled against the State's application to stop the media naming a Christian Brother teacher accused of indecently assaulting children in the 1980s.
John Gibson (aged 72) was this morning jailed for two years for sexual assaults on two children at a Christian Brothers’ School in Co. Wexford in 1983 and 1985.
The first victim was aged 12 during the summer of 1983 when Gibson recruited her to do some painting in the school. After the day's work was done he insisted she wash before going home and molested her during this.
Two years later Gibson asked the second victim, a 12-year-old boy, to grease the goalposts on playing fields. He again insisted the boy clean up after the work and molested the boy in the shower block.
Gibson of Dun Laoghaire, Dublin had denied three charges of indecent assault. He was found guilty of all counts by a jury following a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in February.
During the trial, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) sought an order from Judge Elma Sheahan to prevent the media from naming Gibson or even reporting any of the detail of the case on the basis there may be upcoming trials.
Lawyers on behalf of the publishers of the Irish Times, the Irish Independent and the Irish Daily Mirror newspapers subsequently made an application to have the reporting restrictions lifted and to allow normal reporting of the trial.
The DPP did not make any submissions against the application and the court heard there are no other charges against Gibson before any court. Judge Elma Sheahan ruled then that there were no compelling arguments to restrict reporting and that a warning by the judge in any future trial would be sufficient to deal with any potential prejudice.
Gibson was subsequently named in press coverage of his trial and sentence hearing.
Sentencing him today, Judge Sheahan said his behaviour had “profound and long-lasting consequences” on the victims. She said he abused his position of authority and carried out the attacks in a pre-meditated way.
She said he does not acknowledge his wrongdoing or the jury verdict and has shown no remorse. These serious attacks on vulnerable children have affected their psychological integrity, she said.
She noted the defence submissions that Gibson is in ill health. She imposed one-year prison sentences for each assault, with the sentence for the later offence to run consecutive to the sentences for the 1983 offences, making an operative sentence of two years.
During the trial, the two complainants testified that Gibson had molested them while washing them after they had carried out some manual work for him around the school.
During the summer of 1983, Gibson asked the girl to do some painting in a corridor. He sexually abused her afterwards in a classroom while washing her with a basin and a cloth.
During the school summer holidays two years later Gibson asked the boy for help to grease some goalposts on playing fields, and abused him afterwards while he was showering.
The man, now aged 36, described how he had been a promising football player and a top student, but that after the abuse, school became a nightmare as he faced the “absolute horror of seeing my abuser every day and not knowing when the next beating was coming from”.
He started binge-drinking aged 14, lost interest in sport and eventually dropped out of school. He said the day he was abused was when he “stopped being a child and had to take on a burden and secret that no child should have to carry”.
The man said with Gibson’s conviction, the embarrassment of being abused was finally gone and he had been able to park the years of anger, flashbacks, drinking and crying to sleep with the help of his family and counselling.
“If my father had known what was done to me by that animal, I have no doubt he [Gibson] would be deceased,” he added.
Both victims spoke of the environment in 1980s Ireland where the church was “untouchable” and “clerics and religious were to be revered”.
The woman, now aged 47, said she was “innocent in a way that can only be imagined” when she was molested at the age of 12.
“I didn’t know what puberty was. I was an easy target for an adult who wanted to take advantage of a trusting child who always did what they were told,” she said.
The woman said the abuse was a “life sentence” which had cost her every loving relationship in her life as she struggled with intimacy.
The woman described how the abuse transformed her from a bright, confident child into someone withdrawn, nervous, fearful and a target for bullies. She said she developed a “mental trick” for dealing with the shame of the abuse which she used into her 30s.
“I would imagine a wooden box deep inside me with a big iron lock and I would push those memories into the box with all my might and firmly lock it. It would allow me to bury the pain temporarily, but it didn’t stop its effects,” she said.
She said that every day she grieves the loss of the little girl who “never got to grow up to what she was meant to be”.
Philip Rahn BL, defending, said his client suffered from a number of health difficulties including depression, high blood pressure and severe back pain.
He said Gibson had been “very publicly shamed” in relation to his conviction and was on the Sex Offenders’ Register.
The court heard that Gibson is now retired and lives in a structured and supervised community within the Christian Brothers, where he is subject to the organisation’s Safety Plan. He has voluntarily undertaken not to be alone with children.