Woman abused by friend’s brother says conviction ‘like a black cloud being lifted’

Paul O’Brien (47) sexually abused neighbour when she was a child

A woman who was sexually abused by her friend’s older brother has said that the jury’s verdict that led to his conviction was “like a black cloud being lifted”.

Grace Kelly waived her anonymity to allow Paul O’Brien (47) to be named in reporting the case.

On Monday Mr Justice David Keane jailed O’Brien for three years, having taken into account the gravity of the offence, noting that it was at the more serious end of a sexual offence.

The judge also took into account the age and vulnerability of Ms Kelly at the time of the abuse and the serious psychological damage she has suffered as a result. He noted that O’Brien does not accept the jury’s verdict and maintains his innocence.


Mr Justice Keane said Ms Kelly had described the devastating effect of the crime on her, adding that the abuse had taken over her life “and is more than she can cope with”.

He acknowledged she in on medication and was previously hospitalised for three days due to a panic attack. He noted Ms Kelly attributes her medical difficulties to the abuse she suffered as a child.

He further acknowledged that Ms Kelly concluded her victim impact statement by saying that she hopes now to start a new chapter in her life.

Mr Justice Keane said Ms Kelly had shown “commendable resilience and perseverance” and had shown dignity in the way she dealt with the trial. He wished her well for the future.

The judge took into account evidence that O’Brien had no other convictions before or since the offences and had served 21 years in the army before retiring with “honourable discharge” because of these offences.

Mr Justice Keane took into account case law which deals with sentencing offenders at the age O’Brien was at the time of the abuse and also acknowledged that, at 47 years old, he is answering for criminal conduct he carried out nearly three decades ago.

O’Brien of Forest Park, Killygordon, Co Donegal had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to 15 counts of sexual assault on dates between January and December 1995. A jury found him guilty of six of these counts following a nine-day trial last November.

Ms Kelly (39) was between nine and 10 years old at the time.

Garda Rory McGowan told Shane Geraghty BL, prosecuting, that Ms Kelly and O’Brien were neighbours at the time and she was best friends with O’Brien’s younger sister.

She visited their family home and frequently played computer games with O’Brien, which was when the sex assaults occurred. The abuse involved kissing her and making her touch his penis and kissing her breasts. He would hold his foot against the door to prevent others coming into the room.

Ms Kelly later told gardaí that O’Brien told her she was “lovely and pretty” and used to give her “sweets and fizzy drinks”. The girls stopped hanging around together after primary school and Ms Kelly said she “blanked it out” but it later played on her mind and she eventually disclosed the abuse.

Ms Kelly read her victim impact statement during which she said that she wrote the statement for a reason, “and that that reason is for justice ... justice for what was committed against me when I was a child of 10 years old”.

“I have nothing to be ashamed of. I know I have done nothing wrong. This was 28 years ago – I will remember it for the rest of my life,” Ms Kelly continued before she added that a “a large black cloud lifted from me when the jury returned the verdict”.

Colm Smyth SC, defending, said O’Brien maintains his innocence.