Former Scout leader jailed for abusing boys on camping trips

Victims speak of lasting distress caused by actions of David O’Brien between 1975 and 1980

A former Dublin Scout leader who sexually abused six young boys on camping trips in the late 1970s and early 1980s has been jailed for four and a half years. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times.

A former Dublin Scout leader who sexually abused six young boys on camping trips in the late 1970s and early 1980s has been jailed for four and a half years. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times.

 

A former Dublin Scout leader who sexually abused six young boys on camping trips in the late 1970s and early 1980s has been jailed for 4½ years.

David O’Brien (63) would unzip the boys’ sleeping bags during the night, reach under their pyjamas and fondle their private parts, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

He forced one boy to masturbate him in secluded areas on different trips, according to Garda Sheila White. The court heard he also clasped his hand around another boy’s mouth as he fondled him on a separate trip.

O’Brien, of Benburb Street, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of indecently assaulting six males in Dublin, Kilkenny and Cork between 1975 and 1980. He has no previous convictions.

Judge Martin Nolan noted the “harrowing” victim impact reports handed in by the men in which several described being suicidal throughout their lives as a result of O’Brien’s abuse.

One man called him “a coward, a pervert, a paedophile” and said the scouts was “nothing more than a hunting ground for (O’Brien’s) depraved pleasure.”

The judge noted that the offences took place in the 1970s and early 1980s and said the maximum sentence that could be handed down for any individual offence was two years because of the law in force at the time.

He said it was within the court’s discretion to impose consecutive sentences “when justice demands it.” He imposed three consecutive sentences of two years and suspended the final 18 months, meaning an effective jail sentence of 4½ years.

The judge said O’Brien had used his position of trust and authority to abuse the boys and that the offences were planned and premeditated. He took into account that O’Brien has lead a “somewhat torturous existence” since the abuse and that he lives in a hostel “in social isolation”.

Garda White told Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting, that gardaí­ and the HSE were notified by O’Brien’s counsellor after he admitted sexually abusing young boy scouts over 30 years ago. She said the now adult victims were contacted and each gave Garda statements in 2014.

She agreed with Michael Bowman SC, defending, that O’Brien leads an isolated life, is a chronic alcoholic and has had “a multiplicity of inpatient stays” at psychiatric institutions.

Garda White further agreed that O’Brien, a former postman, suffered a breakdown in his 30s and had not abused boys since the 1980s.

One man, now aged 52, read a victim impact statement to the court in which he described how he has battled with depression, addiction and social anxiety for decades as a result of the abuse.

He graphically depicted O’Brien’s assaults and said he had been suicidal and had suffered nightmares and sleepless nights for decades. He added: “I just want one f**king day without David O’Brien.”

Another man took the witness box to read his victim impact statement, in which he described himself as a “survivor” with stability now at the age of 50.

He revealed he had been suicidal and had a “lifelong struggle” with depression and alcohol, but he “takes some comfort” that O’Brien will be jailed.

Ms Small read the Victim Impact Statement of a third man, now 47 years old, who didn’t wish to take the witness stand. It outlined how he had spent time as an inpatient after being suicidal on several occasions. The man said O’Brien could have targeted him because he was a “shy, quiet child”.

Mr Bowman submitted to Judge Nolan that O’Brien had been sexually assaulted in his youth by a man at St Stephen’s Green and abused by a clergyman in an educational setting.

Counsel said his client has never had a romantic partner and is “very troubled” by his offences.

After the verdict, Scouting Ireland released a statement saying it “wishes to express its sincere regret that young people were hurt and that lives were blighted to the extent that it still impacts upon them as adults 40 years later. The passage of so many years does not in any way lessen the suffering of those young people.

“Today’s case relates to an organisation that is no longer in existence. Scouting Ireland was established in 2003 from the merger of the Scout Association of Ireland (SAI) and the Catholic Scouts of Ireland (CSI).

“We wish to reassure the Irish people that the procedures and policies of Scouting Ireland in relation to child protection are recognised as best practice in our sector. We have a fully professional child protection team which ensures compliance with the highest standards across our 12,000 volunteers and our 500 groups around the country.

“It is the policy and requirement of Scouting Ireland that no adult takes part in scouting activities until their Garda vetting has been approved and they have completed the appropriate child protection training. Child protection training for adults involved in scouting is mandatory and Scouting Ireland trains thousands of adults every year to ensure informed compliance with best practices and statutory obligations.”