A convicted paedophile will be sentenced later for sexually assaulting a one-year-old baby who had been left in his care while her parents went out drinking.
Michael O’Brien (45) committed the abuse against a backdrop of severe neglect and physical abuse by the child’s parents. The court heard there were no clean clothes, electricity or food in the house at the time, although food was kept in the freezer for when social workers came for inspections.
O’Brien is serving a 12-year sentence imposed in 2008 for the sexual abuse of two children under six. In 1993, he was jailed for four years for the aggravated sexual assault of a 60-year-old woman during a burglary of her home.
O'Brien pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexually assaulting the baby at her home between April 2005 and October 2006. He was convicted by a jury earlier this year.
During a sentencing hearing yesterday, a local garda told Anne Rowland, prosecuting, that when the baby was born, her parents brought her home, handed her to her sister (10) and told her that she had to look after her.
The older girl told gardaí that many times she had returned home to find the baby in a car seat in front of the television while the parents were out drinking. In 2005 the parents returned to the house drunk with O’Brien.
From then on O’Brien regularly stayed in the house and babysat the children.
The older sister told the trial she was afraid of O’Brien and would lock herself and her siblings in a room when he was there. One day she came home and found O’Brien sexually assaulting the baby in the sitting room. The girl grabbed a poker and hit O’Brien, telling him to get away from her sister.
When the children’s mother came home, she beat the girl with the poker as punishment for hitting O’Brien. The child was too afraid to tell her mother about the sexual abuse.
Taken into care
The children were later taken into care where the older sister told gardaí about the sexual assault while detailing the neglect they faced in the house. A foster parent told the trial that most of them were not toilet-trained and they did not know how to use cutlery or a toothbrush.
An examination of O’Brien’s victim showed physical evidence of the sexual abuse and O’Brien was arrested and interviewed. He admitted babysitting the children sometimes but denied sexual abuse.
Geraldine Fitzpatrick SC, defending, said her client now accepted the verdict of the jury. He had being doing a course in prison to help him rehabilitate. Ms Fitzpatrick asked Judge Sarah Berkeley to consider "the light at the end of the tunnel" principle and allow O'Brien a chance to rehabilitate for his eventual release.
Judge Berkeley ordered a prison report and a psychological assessment for O’Brien and adjourned sentence until June 6th.