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Gerard O'Brien Paddy Cummins
Courts

Former judge Gerard O'Brien sentenced to four years for sexual assault

O’Brien (59) from Thurles, Co Tipperary, was convicted last December at the Central Criminal Court in relation to six victims.

LAST UPDATE | 31 May

A FORMER CIRCUIT Court judge who was convicted of sexually abusing six young men when he was a teacher 30 years ago has been jailed for four years.

Gerard O’Brien (59) of Old School House, Slievenamon Road, Thurles, Co Tipperary, was convicted last December at the Central Criminal Court of one count of attempted anal rape and eight counts of sexual assault in relation to six victims.

The offences occurred at locations in Dublin between March 1991 and November 1997. O’Brien was a teacher at a Dublin secondary school and was aged between 27 and 33 at the time. The victims—four of whom were his students or former students— were then aged between 17 and 24.

Today, O’Brien was handed an effective global sentence of five years and nine months with 21 months suspended under strict conditions. He will also be subject to a two-year post release supervision order.

The offences occurred at locations in Dublin between March 1991 and November 1997.

During this period, O’Brien was a teacher at CBC Monkstown and aged between 27 and 33.

In a statement today, the Board of Management at CBC Monkstown said expressed “solidarity and support” for the past pupils of the school abused by O’Brien.

The statement “commended their bravery in coming forward” and said that the evidence which emerged was a “matter of profound regret for the whole school community”. 

The Board of Management added that it has put “specialised counselling services in place which will be available to the victims and survivors”. 

Sentencing

 

The victims—four of whom were students or former students— were then aged between 17 and 24.

The six victims have previously indicated they wished for O’Brien to be named but to maintain their anonymity.

O’Brien pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He resigned as a Circuit Court judge in January, having been appointed in 2015, but had been on leave since the allegations came to light.

Imposing sentence, Mr Justice Alexander Owens said the breach of trust involved in the offending and its significant impact on the victims were among the aggravating features of this case.

He said O’Brien’s legal career after he left teaching in 1997 and his subsequent appointment to the judiciary made it “perhaps inevitable” that his victims would come forward.

Mr Justice Owens remarked that O’Brien’s conviction “shows, in my view, he was unsuitable to hold judicial office”.

Mr Justice Owens said he had taken into account the mitigating factors including O’Brien’s age and disability when devising the sentence.

He noted the contents of a report from the Irish Prison Service and that prison will not be a “pleasant place” for O’Brien due to his age, disability and “former position in society”.

All six victims, along with a large number of supporters and family members, were in court for today/yesterday’s hearing.

At a previous hearing, Garda Inspector Jonathan Hayes told Anne Marie Lawlor SC, prosecuting, that five of the six victims woke up to find O’Brien performing sexual acts on them that they had not consented to.

Of these victims, four woke to O’Brien performing oral sex on them, with the fifth saying he woke to O’Brien licking his face and pressing his penis against his buttocks.

One of these five victims also said O’Brien attempted to rape him anally. The final injured party’s allegation related to an act of masturbation in the toilets of a pub.

O’Brien was born with a rare congenital condition, Phocomelia, a side effect of the drug Thalidomide. During the trial, O’Brien said in evidence that his mother was “convinced” she took the drug.

This condition resulted in O’Brien being born with no upper limbs and missing one lower limb.

The court heard he requires assistance with everyday tasks, including toileting. He has no previous convictions.

Insp Hayes outlined that the six victims had all provided assistance to O’Brien with everyday tasks, including toileting on occasions before the sexual assaults occurred.

The court heard that alcohol was a feature of each incident, with drink taken by the six men and O’Brien.

Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, asked the court to take into account all relevant mitigating and personal circumstances when determining a sentence.

He suggested the court consider a non-custodial sentence and asked for as much leniency as possible for his client.

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