‘Prolific paedophile’ scout leader (80) jailed for molesting five boys over six-year period

Judge tells court the victims, now aged in their 50s, were ‘denied justice for a very, very long time’

A judge has jailed an 80-year-old former scout leader for six years and eight months for molesting five young boys, all scouts “who still believed in Santa” in the 1970s and early 1980s.

At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Francis Comerford imposed a 16-month prison term on Jim Harmon of Pinewood, Shannon, Co Clare, for each of the five boys he indecently assaulted over a six-year period between 1976 and 1981 at locations in Clare and Limerick.

Addressing the five complainants – all now men in their 50s – Judge Comerford said that they have been “denied justice for a very, very long time”.

Harmon was aged 33 to 38 during the period of the indecent assaults which took place at Cratloe in southeast Clare, Holy Island on Lough Derg, and Garryowen and the Ennis Road in Limerick.


One of the five, in his victim impact statement, said that he has carried what happened to him for decades.

The man said that Harmon’s victims were “young children seven and eight years of age, children who still believed in Santa who were supposed to have innocence in their lives, making their Communions”.

Describing Harmon as a “prolific paedophile”, another victim told the court that “this predator used a position of trust to deceive parents and their children to repeatedly molest vulnerable young boys with no regard for the impact his actions had on his many young victims”.

Judge Comerford noted that one of the five informed his mother that Harmon – who lived in the Garryown area of Limerick at the time of his offending – had indecently assaulted him as far back as 1981 while in the scouts.

The boy’s mother, in turn, informed local scouting authorities who took action against Harmon and dismissed him from his senior scouting role in 1982.

Judge Comerford said that “it didn’t go any further” and gardaí were not informed at the time.

Judge Comerford said that a complaint by one of the five to gardaí in 1996 about Harmon “went nowhere”. The Director of Public Prosecutions recommended that no prosecution take place against Harmon concerning a complaint by the same man in 2014, and made the same direction concerning a separate complaint by another victim in 2016.

Judge Comerford stated that it was only after Scouting Ireland had set up a helpline for those abused by adults in the organisation that another man came forward to make a complaint against Harmon, and the older complaints were reviewed.

The current “exhaustive” Garda investigation that resulted in Harmon’s guilty pleas involved gardaí taking 80 witness statements.

Counsel for the State, Lorcan Connolly BL, instructed by State Solicitor, Aisling Casey, said that in the 1970s Harmon was well respected in Limerick scouting circles, and had the trust of families to bring their boys away on overnight camping trips.

One of the five, Ruairi Hickey (54), told gardaí that Harmon molested him when he was 9 or 10 while the two played chess on a scouting trip to Holy Island in Co Clare.

Two other boys were on the same scouting trip and in his victim impact statement, Mr Hickey – originally from Limerick’s North Circular Road – said: “I remember seeing the other two walking away and being powerless, knowing and dreading what was to come.”

Mr Hickey also recalled another scout visit with Harmon to O’Brien’s Estate in Cratloe, Co Clare where Harmon lined up the boys present in their underpants and measured their bodies with a soft measuring tape.

Mr Hickey said that Harmon’s abuse was regular.

Sgt Niall Donovan of Roxboro Garda station Limerick, told the court that Harmon has one previous conviction, from 2017 at Waterford Circuit Court for indecent assault of a young boy scout in 1976. He received a suspended one year and three months.

Sgt Donovan said that Harmon married a widowed woman in 1994 and was stepfather to her five children. He said that the couple took in a six-year-old under a foster care arrangements with the HSE. Harmon’s wife died in 2000.

Sgt Donovan said that Harmon worked as ground crew for the RAF from 1960 to 1973 and worked with the now defunct semistate agency, Shannon Development, from 1973 to 2003.

Counsel for Harmon, Donal Cronin BL, said that Harmon is alone in this world after becoming estranged from his family following the Waterford case. Mr Cronin said that Harmon was himself a victim of similar type behaviour in the past and expresses profound regret for his actions.

Speaking after Harmon was jailed on Wednesday, one of the five victims said he was happy with the sentence imposed.

He said: “I wanted him convicted. I wanted him going somewhere. I wanted him to hear the cell door close behind him.”