Former scout leader jailed for four years for abuse of five boys on scouting trips in the 1980s

Retired hospital porter Noel Sheehan (78) was convicted of 16 charges at Cork Circuit Criminal Court

Noel Sheehan, of Chimneyfields, Glenville, Co Cork, was jailed for four years for indecently assaulting five young boys

A former scout leader (78) has been jailed for four years for indecently assaulting five young boys when they were members of his scout troop in Cork over 30 years ago.

Noel Sheehan, a retired hospital porter with an address at Chimneyfields, Glenville, Co Cork, had denied all 17 charges against him but was convicted of 16 charges by unanimous verdict of a jury following a trial lasting six days at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

Sheehan, described by his victims as “an animal” and “a monster”, abused the boys when they were aged between 10 and 12 and he took them away on camping weekends in the 1980s at a scout hall at Old Schoolhouse, Chimneyfields, Glenville; Mount Melleray, Co Waterford; and Drishane Castle, Millstreet, Co Cork.

Imposing sentence, Judge Helen Boyle said those outings, which should have been ones of fun and adventure, were instead turned into horrific experiences by Sheehan when he abused his victims. “They were preyed upon by you when you were in charge of their welfare.”


Sheehan’s victims told the court, when they read out their victim impact statements, of how their lives were devastated by Sheehan’s abuse of them as children. Three told how they resorted to drink or drugs while some also self-harmed as a result of his abuse.

One victim said he would not have got married or a job if he did not get counselling for his issues with authority figures. Thankfully this led to therapy which helped him, and he was glad to present the victim impact statement for his childhood self who was abused by Noel Sheehan, he told the court.

He told Judge Boyle the scouting motto of ‘Bí Ullamh’, or ‘Be Prepared’, was highly ironic, as nothing could have prepared him for what happened at the hands of Sheehan on overnights for scouting weekends.

“The shame I felt [at the time] was torture and here he tried to intimidate me in the corridors of the courthouse, standing in front of me with a smirk of arrogance – like a predator circling his prey – not getting a reaction no matter how much he poked the bear,” the victim said.

“I felt frightened and ashamed and became very isolated. I turned to drink and drugs. Seeing that animal [In court] for the first time since the abuse, making us out to be troublemakers,” said another victim, who was abused between the ages of 10 and 12 while on scouting weekends. The man who felt his own parents should have known or should have intervened.

Another man decided to renew a complaint in 2021 to protect children, when contacted by the gardaí after the DPP decided not to prosecute when he first complained 20 years ago. “He has been slipping through the hands of the criminal justice system for far too long,” he said.

Another said he turned to alcohol at 13 so that “drink would help me with all these demons in my head”, leading to drug addiction and jail. “I hope this monster gets what he deserves for what he done to me and the other kids. He absolutely destroyed us and our families,” he said.

During the trial one of the men told how Sheehan threatened he would kill him if ever told anyone about the sexual assault and later told him, following another sexual assault in Mount Melleray, that he would shoot him. He was terrified because he knew Sheehan had a gun, the trial heard.

The jury of eight men and four women took just six hours to convict Sheehan, but his counsel Ray Boland SC told Judge Boyle that he had “unequivocal instructions that he does not accept the verdicts from the jury which precludes me from offering any remorse”.

In February 2022, also at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Sheehan was convicted of indecently assaulting a boy scout in similar circumstances in the 1980s, and he was given a two-year sentence with the final year suspended.

Judge Boyle imposed a total sentence of four-and-a-half years and suspended the last six months before commending Sheehan’s victims for their bravery in coming forward to report the abuse to gardaí and for the eloquence of their victim impact statements.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times