Judge to be sentenced on Friday over sexual assaults on six young men

Gerard O’Brien resigned as Circuit Court judge last December after conviction

A Circuit Court judge who resigned earlier this year after being convicted of sexually assaulting six teenage boys and young men in their early 20s in the 1990s will be sentenced on Friday.

The sentencing of Gerard O’Brien had been fixed at the Central Criminal Court for Wednesday but Ms Justice Eileen Creedon said it would instead proceed on Friday.

O’Brien, who is on bail pending sentence, was in court for the brief mention of the case.

Last month, Mr Justice Alexander Owens, who presided over O’Brien’s trial, told the six survivors the sentence will involve a custodial element and will not be “wholly suspended”.

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He adjourned sentence on April 30th, saying he had much to consider, including three victim impact statements, reports on O’Brien and what services would be available in prison in light of O’Brien’s disability.

As a result of Phocomelia, a rare birth defect, O’Brien, now aged 59 and with an address in Thurles, Co Tipperary, was born without arms and just one leg and needs assistance in personal care.

Then a serving judge, he was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury last December of sexually assaulting six males, aged between 17 and 24 at the time of the offences, and of the attempted rape of one. The offences occurred on dates between 1991 and 1997 when O’Brien was a teacher at a second level school in Co Dublin.

Four of the males were his pupils or former pupils and he knew the other two socially.

During the four week trial, five complainants gave evidence they, on separate occasions, stayed overnight, in his residence to help him in the morning with dressing and going to the toilet. They said they had been drinking, as had O’Brien, and woke to find him performing sexual acts on them to which they had not consented.

One complainant said O’Brien sexually assaulted him while he was bringing him to the toilet in a pub.

O’Brien, who denied the charges, was convicted on December 22nd.

In April, Mr Justice Owens heard victim impact statements provided by three survivors, evidence concerning the assaults on all six and mitigation submissions. Probation, psychological and occupational therapy reports concerning O’Brien, and some character references, including from retired solicitor Dara Robinson, were also provided.

One survivor told the judge he was a fifth year pupil when he was assaulted after being “recruited” by O’Brien as a helper.

“I was hit with shock, loss of trust, shame and disappointment,” he said. His behaviour became “erratic and unpredictable”, he lost interest in sports, music and academic achievement and his physical health suffered “with stress, upset, depression and worry”.

“Before I met Gerard O’Brien, I was a happy, outgoing and trusting person who felt safe and secure within myself. It is impossible to say how my life would have turned out had I not experienced his abuse of trust, his grooming and manipulative actions,” he said.

Inspector Jonathan Hayes, who lead the Garda investigation into the allegations against O’Brien, read the other two victim impact statements.

In one, the survivor said O’Brien, his teacher, had “betrayed me to my inner core” after assaulting him when aged 17. “His actions have caused me a lifetime of chronic anxiety, a decade of zero self-worth, a suicide attempt and a nervous breakdown.”

In the other statement, the survivor said he was “a 16-year-old child” when O’Brien first asked him to help bring him to the toilet.

It was in that environment that O’Brien’s inappropriate sexual behaviour began, he said. As a result of O’Brien’s actions, he had “built a wall around me” and had a problem of trust and letting people into his life, he said.

In mitigation submissions for O’Brien, Mr O’Higgins said O’Brien did not fit a “caricature” of an unkind and predatory person.

The probation report, he said, referred to O’Brien engaging in “sophisticated” grooming while the psychologist’s report disclosed he has unresolved trauma as a victim of sexual abuse when he was a child and he was described as psychologically vulnerable and of low self-esteem.

O’Brien had “scaled very lofty heights” but has “lost everything”, he said.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times