A former Christian brother who was convicted of indecently assaulting a young boy at Letterfrack industrial school in Galway, was jailed for two years at Dundalk Circuit Court last week.
The court heard 73 year old Robert “Robbie” Doherty - with an address at Glenwood, Dundalk later worked as a teacher in the local CBS secondary school, now known as Colaiste Ris.
The court was told last Tuesday that a jury convicted the defendant of six counts of indecent assault in the Connemara school on dates unknown between the end of August 1965 and the fourth of April 1967. The trial had heard the victim was sentenced to four years detention when he was nine fo r stealing a bicycle outside a church during morning mass, which he later returned to his local garda station.
The victim was about 12 years when the abuse began and the offending occurred in the defendant’s room above a dormitory, where he made the boy lie backwards on his bed and fondle his private parts as he stood over him.
The complainant estimated that each time the abuse lasted between 20 minutes and half an hour.
In a victim impact statement, the injured party said the accused had messed up his life, his mother did not believe him and “beat the shit out of me with a poker” when he told her about the abuse. He said he became an alcoholic because of the defendant. The court heard that when the allegations were put to him Robert Doherty denied them.
The court was told the 73 year old widower - who had no previous convictions, was convicted in Galway Circuit Court in March this year. One former colleague from Colaiste Ris gave evidence as a character witness on behalf of the Defence while two others had written testimonials which were read to the court. They all said they were shocked to hear of what he was accused of. They spoke of how highly regarded he was as a teacher and that they were not aware of any complaints being made in relation to his time there. One said he did not believe the claims.
The Defence barrister said his client - who has been diagnosed with mouth cancer and other medical conditions, had built a terrific teaching career in Dundalk from 1977 to 2003, when it was cut short by the allegations. He added the accused has had a tragic fall from grace - tainted w ith ill-health, which does not have an optimistic prognosis.
The court heard in relation to the defendant’s treatment for cancer there is a 50-60 per cent survival rate in his case.
The trial judge Rory MacCabe said the breach of trust was of the most gross nature.
He described the abuse of power and authority by the accused as being “of a despicable and cowardly kind” and said there was still no sign of a scintilla o f Christian concern for “a young defenceless child,” who had been placed in his care.
The Judge added “it is almost beyond contemplation,” that such “wickedness and perversion,” was allowed to happen.
He also said the purpose of sending children there (Letterfrack) was meant to be a mix of punishment and rehabilitation but the victim impact statement indicated that it had instead been an experience of “degradation,” and “contributed to a significant degree to a sad and broken life.”
He imposed the maximum sentence of two years for each offence to run concurrently. Speaking outside the court afterwards the victim said “Now all my family know the truth. I want my family to know I was not telling lies. I was telling the truth and I want them to know I wasn’t this crazy little brother they thought they had.
“That I wasn’t a little liar all these years.”
“I am 60 nearly 61 and I grew up hating this man. Most of that hatred is gone because it only made me sick. I don’t want to see an old man like him die in prison. I wanted justice.”
When he was asked if he got justice, he replied “Yes.”