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Child Abuse

81-year-old former school principal appeals his sentence for abusing primary school girls

A judge said “this is obviously a difficult case” which raised important issues for all involved.

AN 81-YEAR-OLD FORMER primary school principal has moved to appeal his prison sentence for indecently assaulting 11 women while they were pupils of his in west Clare.

Patrick Barry lost an appeal against conviction earlier this week with the Court of Appeal “unable to hold” with him on any of his 12 grounds of appeal.

The 81-year-old, of Well Road, Kilkee, Co Clare, had pleaded not guilty to 67 charges of indecently assaulting 11 women on dates between 1964 and 1985 while they attended Moyasta National School as pupils.

He was found guilty by a jury of 59 counts of indecent assault and not guilty of the remaining eight counts by direction of the trial judge Judge Gerald Keyes.

Barry was given an effective sentence of 11 years imprisonment with the final five suspended by Judge Keyes at Ennis Circuit Criminal Court on 19 November 2014.

Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal on Monday, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the three judge court was “unable to hold” with Barry on any of his 12 grounds of appeal and accordingly his appeal against conviction was dismissed.

What happened

Mr Justice Sheehan said Barry had been a teacher in a small, mixed, two teacher school in rural County Clare 30 to 50 years ago.

Eleven of his female pupils claimed that when they were in fifth and sixth class they were indecently assaulted by him, the judge said.

Mr Justice Sheehan said Barry would sit down beside the girls at their desks and touch them indecently or would call them to the front of the class and make them stand between his legs while he was pressed against them.

Sometimes, the judge said, he brought their hands up and down his legs and made some of them touch his genital area.

Apart from two particular complaints, all the offences occurred in the classroom in the presence of other pupils, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Why the sentences were consecutive 

Moving an appeal against sentence today, counsel for Barry, Roderick O’Hanlon SC, submitted that the sentencing judge did not set out the special circumstances as to why Barry’s sentences were imposed consecutively.

Had Barry been prosecuted 30 years ago, Mr O’Hanlon said, a court would not have found it appropriate to impose consecutive sentences.

Mr O’Hanlon said Moyasta was a very small community where everybody knew each other.

As such, the loss in standing for Barry would have a very significant affect on him for the balance of his life.

Furthermore, Mr O’Hanlon said Barry has a significant hearing problem. Since going to prison, his hearing aid broke and it wasn’t repaired for three months or longer.

“This is obviously a difficult case”

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Vincent Heneghan BL, said Barry sat through the trial, he was aware of the allegations and what he was found guilty of.

The trial was heard over more than ten days, Mr Heneghan said, and as such Barry knew the nature and background of the offending when he was sentenced.

Mr Heneghan said the number of victims, their ages, and Barry’s position of trust as their teacher, made the case much graver.

The court heard Barry has a release date of May 20 2019.

Reserving judgment on the sentence appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham said “this is obviously a difficult case” which raised important issues for all involved.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, said the court would give its decision on 15 May.

Ruaidhrí Giblin