25 Sept 2022

Former scout leader calls for gardai to find his 'many victims'

Former scout leader calls for gardai to find his "many victims"

A former scout leader who has been jailed for abusing ten boys has called for gardai to find the rest of his "many victims" so that he can "put an end to all of this".

David O'Brien (69) of Benburb St, Dublin has been sentenced twice at the Circuit Criminal Court, first in 2015 for sexually abusing six boys and then in 2018 for indecent assault on another four. All the offences occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s.

At the Court of Appeal a lawyer acting for O'Brien on Tuesday revealed that the former scout leader is currently before the Circuit Court in relation to another offence. He said his client doesn't remember the names of his "many victims" and is therefore unable to make use of a provision in the Criminal Justice Act that allows a person to admit guilt to offences not before the court to have them taken into account in sentencing.

Counsel added that it is virtually impossible for O'Brien to do anything but it is within the power of gardai to find the members of the scouting unit to "hopefully put an end to all of this". At a previous hearing it emerged that O'Brien told gardai in 2016 that he abused 30 to 40 boys during his time as a scout leader. 

In reply Mr Justice John Edwards said it was not a matter for the three-judge Court of Appeal.

The court had earlier heard an appeal by O'Brien against the severity of the eight-year sentence with 16 months suspended imposed on him in 2018. Padraig Dwyer SC for O'Brien said that the sentencing judge, Judge Karen O'Connor, failed to take into account that O'Brien had already served a sentence for offences that were all committed around the same time. The two sentences together totalled 14 years with three years suspended. Mr Dwyer submitted that 11 years in prison is not a typical sentence for the type of institutional sexual offending his client had pleaded guilty to. He also pointed out that his client had come forward to gardai as far back as 1997 and admitted to abusing boys in his care but for reasons unknown no prosecution was ever brought. He further submitted that his client is not accused of any offence since he left the scouts in the early 1980s.

Mr Justice Edwards, presiding, with Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, dismissed the appeal in an oral judgement. Mr Justice Edwards said the fact there were ten victims with the aggravating factor of a serious breach of trust by a person in authority "could easily have justified a cumulative net sentence of 11 years."

He said the sentencing judge was fully alive to the fact O'Brien had already served a sentence and took that into account. Dismissing the appeal, he said the court found no error in principle and added: "On the contrary, our impression is that the sentence was constructed conscientiously and with great care."

At the sentence hearing in 2018 Judge O'Connor said the offending was aggravated by the breach of trust and by three of the victims being warned not to tell anyone. She commented that the victims were “deprived the innocence of childhood”.

She said the case was mitigated by O'Brien's guilty plea, his remorse and the fact he co-operated with gardai. Judge O'Connor sentenced O'Brien to two years imprisonment on a single count of indecent assault relating to each of the four complainants. She ordered that these sentences would run consecutively to each other for an effective operating sentence of eight years imprisonment.

She suspended the final 18 months of this eight years sentence on condition that O'Brien come under the supervision of the Probation Service for 12 months post release.

In his victim impact statement, which he read out in court, the first victim said that the abuse changed his life forever.
The man said that he came from a working class family and his father gave him money to buy a uniform, rucksack and sleeping bag for his first camping trip.

He said that he never went back to the scouts after being assaulted on the trip and his father went “ballistic” due to the apparent waste of money. He did not tell his father about the abuse until shortly before his death.

After he finished giving his statement, Judge O'Connor told the man that it was very courageous of him to read out his statement in court and that his father would have been proud of him.

The second victim, in a written statement, said he suffered trust issues as a result of what happened to him. He said he knew what had happened to him was not right but could not speak up about it.

The third victim declined to make a victim impact statement.

The fourth victim said he developed an acid reflux due to stress, which required multiple surgeries. He attributed the condition to abuse he suffered on the scouting trip.

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