Victim of Tom Humphries thanks his family for reporting abuse

‘I will be forever grateful to them for saving me from the situation,’ says young woman

Former Irish Times sports journalist Tom Humphries arriving at  Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Former Irish Times sports journalist Tom Humphries arriving at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

“I would like to sincerely thank the family of Tom Humphries, ” wrote the young woman he abused as a child.

“Without them reporting this, I do not know where I would be today. I will be forever grateful to them for saving me from the situation. I hope and pray that you can all get past this and somehow manage to live a normal, healthy life.”

“This” and “the situation” was laid out in relentless and somewhat numbing detail yesterday in Dublin’s Circuit Criminal Court as Humphries, a physically large man whose career as a sports journalist and general feature writer also loomed large for many years in this newspaper, sat in the glass-walled dock, hunched over himself and seeming to be calm.

At least initially.

Rarely looking out into the body of the court, preferring to concentrate his gaze on a wooden panel in front of him, Humphries, who pleaded guilty last March to a variety of underage sex and grooming offences, rested his chin in his left hand and fiddled with his lower lip and his well-trimmed salt and pepper beard.

Grave and stressed

He wore a dark blue, casual jacket, light blue button down collar shirt and geometric pattern tie. He had puffy bags under his eyes and appeared grave and stressed.

The woman, who may not lawfully be named or otherwise identified, revealed in her victim impact statement the effect Humphries’s actions had on her. Her experience made her physically sick and damaged her confidence in herself and her trust in men.

Her ordeal began in December 2008 when she was aged 14 and a promising club-level camogie player, but a teenager who was also apparently vulnerable with an eating disorder.

Humphries, then aged 45 and a part-time GAA coach, texted her, encouraging her to improve her playing. “Don’t give up; keep trying,” he urged. Thousands of messages between the pair were to follow, 43 per cent of them nightly, between 10pm and 6am.

As Garda Jarleth Burke agreed with prosecuting counsel, Shane Costelloe SC, on the details of what happened next, Humphries’s demeanour changed gradually over the course of an hour.

There was the texted photograph of his penis he sent her, which revolted her. But Humphries continued texting nonetheless (including sending more photographs), and the girl became more comfortable, in her own words, discussing sex.

On Sunday, December 5th, 2010, Humphries met her outside her school and brought her to his flat in Santry (he was estranged from his wife). He took her to bed, undressed her and they had oral sex.

Similar encounters

There were further similar encounters and subsequent texts were frequently explicitly sexual in nature. Humphries urged her once to “be my whore”.

“Happy New Year, Baby X,” Humphries texted her on January 1st, 2011.

“Shall we make it one to remember?” the girl texted back, with a smiley face emoji.

As the exchanges were laid out by the prosecution in excruciating detail – and from but a sample of the texts – Humphries’s demeanour in the dock changed, his face dissolving into a crumpled mass of anguish.

His counsel, Hugh Hartnett SC, described him as a man broken. Speaking in a measured manner and with no hint of the combativeness that often attends legal exchanges, he said Humphries had had a “brilliant career” that was now in ruins. He would never work again.

He suffered from depression before meeting the girl and was now “morbidly depressed”, said Mr Hartnett. Humphries had twice tried to kill himself. Medical evidence suggested he had cardiomyopathy; he had brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.

‘Genuinely remorseful’

He was refusing further psychiatric treatment on the basis that, although the treatment relieved his suffering, he did not deserve to feel better because of what he had done. He was genuinely remorseful, said Mr Hartnett.

There were character letters of support, one from a former sportswriter colleague, another from a prominent former GAA player. “He was hugely known and reported with some brilliance,” said Mr Hartnett, adding that he was now reviled in the press.

The expression of professional admiration contained in the letters appeared to wound the man whom they were aimed at helping, perhaps because they underscored the scale of his fall from grace.

The girl whom he had defiled, now a young woman, was in court – unidentified but present, supported by who appeared to be friends and family. She did not want to read, or have read out, a letter of alleged apology from Humphries.

In her victim impact statement, she spoke of mental flashbacks and panic attacks, of “feeling ashamed of the fact that I let someone do this to me, and that I allowed him manipulate and have control over me. I went through stages of being physically sick, leading to a loss of school time, education time and thus affecting my learning capabilities.

“I lost a trust in men, a loss of my childhood due to the ordeal of having to deal with the police, counsellors, solicitors and social workers all through the ages of 14 to 16. I had to deal with sexual encounters at such a young age with a man three times my age, which made me physically, emotionally and mentally ill.”

Judge Karen O’Connor said she would consider all that had been said and all the reports and letters submitted before handing down sentence.

She adjourned proceedings, with Humphries to remain on bail pending sentence, but as she rose from the bench the case over for now, Mr Hartnett got to his feet and intervened.

“My client wishes to go into custody immediately,” he said.

Humphries was still sitting in his chair in the dock, slumped forward, his eyes wide open and staring.

Judge O’Connor obliged, adding that whatever medical assistance he needed, be given.