Co Louth teacher convicted of indecently assaulting student over 40 years ago

COURT

Dundalk Democrat

Reporter:

Dundalk Democrat

Co Louth teacher convicted of indecently assaulting student over 40 years ago

A 70 year old former teacher who denied sexually assaulting a teenage boy in County Louth over 40 years ago, was convicted at Dundalk Circuit Court last week.

The jurors - eight men and four women, returned the majority verdicts shortly before 7pm on Thursday following five hours of deliberations.

The defendant - who cannot be named due to reporting restrictions, had pleaded not guilty to five counts of indecent assault between October 1972 and June 1973 at the accused man's then home address and the secondary school where he taught.
Before the jury retired, Judge Gerard Griffin had directed them to find the accused not guilty of two other contested charges - which related to the defendant's family home in the west of Ireland.

The now 59 year old complainant told the jury on the first day of the three day trial last Tuesday that the accused was his form teacher, to whom he delivered the Irish Times as part of a paper round and he would call to the defendant’s bedsit on a Friday to collect payment.

He told how he was in fear after losing a school library book and the defendant tore up the library card with his name on it and told him “Don’t worry about that. I’ll look after you” and it was after that that the abuse began.
Up until then, he said he got on very well with the accused, who he described as being a “very charismatic” and a great teacher, who was very friendly.

The man said he had also attended the defendant’s home for grinds and claimed that one evening, while sitting on the sofa, the accused put his arm around him and then molested him.

The witness said “I was around 13. I didn’t know anything”. He claimed it happened on roughly a weekly basis, and the defendant would also get him to perform the same sex act on him.

The witness said the alleged offending occurred over at least two years.

He also claimed that he was raped two nights in a row, when the defendant took him and two friends on a weekend away to his family home in the West and he ended up sharing a double bed with the accused.

The witness said he was also molested in school after the accused asked him to stay back when his classmates had left. He said he told his partner about the abuse, while on a foreign holiday around 2006 after the actor Gabriel Byrne spoke about being abused himself.

During cross examination by the Defence, the complainant agreed that there was no room in his own house, for the grinds to take place and he had no detailed memory of the grinds themselves. He also confirmed that the accused had called regularly to see his mother.

The witness also said that following legal advice from the One in Four support group he brought legal proceedings against the accused, the Minister for Education and the body which ran the school.

He also confirmed to the Defence that a priest had performed an exorcism or blessing in the home of his friends whose father had died leaving them orphaned, but he denied that he had asked to share a bed with the accused on a weekend away at his family home in the West, because he had a fear of ghosts.

He said he had a clear memory of being told only two bedrooms were available and his friends – a brother and sister had shared the other room.

He also rejected a Defence suggestion that the accused had given out to him for making a mess of the bed sheets.
Senior Defence Counsel Patrick Gageby put it to him that his account was a completely false construction made up 40 years after the event but the complainant disagreed.

A second witness - an older brother of the siblings who went on the weekend away, confirmed to the Defence that he had not gone with them as he had had a few drinks and didn’t feel up to it and he agreed that the defendant had begged him to go with them.

He also agreed that nothing untoward happened when he and his brother and sister went for spins in the defendant’s’ car saying “They were just enjoyable trips”.

The man’s brother – the third witness to give evidence, said the accused used to call regularly to their home to keep them company.

He told how he had gone for the weekend away in the West when he was 12 or 13 years old and said he was not aware of anything happening. He claimed they’d seen the film Chinatown that weekend, which came out in 1974.

A statement from a woman who prepared newspapers for delivery boys at the time was also read to the jury, in which she said the complainant would have been 14 when he worked for her employer.

The next witness - who is the principal at the secondary school in question, told the jury that a room where some of the abuse is alleged to have occurred was five or six feet from a science lab where another teacher spent a lot of time preparing for lessons.

The court heard details about the complainant’s attendance record and the witness gave evidence that between 50 and 75 students attended an after-school study group.

The jury heard how gardai received a formal complaint from the alleged victim in September 2010 and the following July, the defendant presented himself by arrangement for a voluntary interview.

When the allegations were put to him, he replied “bunkum” and he denied that the complainant had ever delivered the Irish Times to his flat, saying that he never read it then, as his father had instilled in him that the newspaper was for Protestants and the Irish Press was “for Fianna Fail gangsters”.

He further denied molesting the complainant in a flat in one area of the County Louth town where he lived – saying the allegation was nonsense and he was living elsewhere at the time.

The accused also claimed to be living in Canada when the alleged victim claims he was raped twice by him on a weekend away, in the defendant’s parent’s home in the west of Ireland.

He also told gardai that there were 11 bedrooms at his parent’s and claimed the complainant had asked to share his bed, as he was afraid of ghosts following an exorcism at his friends’ home.

When he was told his former student had alleged he and his two friends were told only two bedrooms were available, the defendant said that four bedrooms were made up for guests.

The jury has also heard that the accused had no previous convictions.

A Defence witness also gave evidence of searching newspaper records at the National Library of Ireland and finding cinema listings for the movie Chinatown in March 1976, in the west of Ireland town, where two of the offences before the court are alleged to have occurred.

A second Defence witness from the Irish Film Classification Office told the jury the Jack Nicholson film was given an Over 18s certification.

Prosecutor Kevin Segrave told the jury in his closing speech on Thursday, that such offences are mostly committed in private and he argued that in his evidence, the complainant was a straight forward truthful person who did not seek to guild any lilies and gave his account “without seeking to do down” the defendant and he wasn’t afraid to praise the accused in regard to his charm and personal qualities.

Senior Defence Counsel Patrick Gageby told the jury there is very good reason for them to be cautious as the case is 45 years old.

He pointed out that the last two charges on the indictment, had been withdrawn from them – in respect of the defendant’s home place in the West, where the man claims he was twice raped by the accused, as the trial judge had ruled that no reasonable jury could convict on the evidence, Mr. Gageby asked why the guards didn’t ask the complainant to identify the school room in which the offending allegedly took place, when they had taken photos of where the flat is located.

He also argued that during the relevant time frame, his client was not living there – and was boarding in another part of the town.

The Senior Counsel also claimed the allegations in respect of the school and the flat were “completely nebulous” and further argued there was no evidence of his client telling the complainant not to tell or that he had bribed or threatened him.

The jury returned majority guilty verdicts of 11-1 in respect of three of the offences and by a 10-2 margin in the other two charges.

The case has been listed for mention on November 14th when a date for sentencing is due to be fixed.

The court heard the State had no objection to the defendant being remanded on the same bail terms.