A judge has intervened to try to stop a convicted paedophile spending the next four months in jail despite his expressing a willingness to go to prison.
Joseph O'Brien (62) formerly of Pound Street, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon is facing the jail time after breaching the terms of the suspended sentence imposed on him last November by Judge Patrick Durcan through failing to notify gardaí of a change of address under the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act.
Another condition of the suspended jail term was that O’Brien have no direct contact with children after a report on him has stated that he has a high risk of sex re-offending.
On December 22nd last at Ennis District Court, Judge Durcan issued a bench warrant for O’Brien’s arrest after he went missing following front page newspaper coverage of his case and leaving his accommodation as a result.
O’Brien turned himself in on December 27th to gardaí and has been in custody since.
His solicitor John Casey told Ennis District Court on Wednesday that "because of tabloid interest in the case, accommodation for Mr O'Brien is impossible".
Mr Casey told Judge Durcan: “The difficulty is that Mr O’Brien doesn’t have anywhere to go. That is a real present and practical difficulty. He is hoping that this period of months in prison will allow him arrange somewhere to go.”
Mr Casey told the court: “I appreciate that the public has to be protected but Mr O’Brien does have rights as well and he will hopefully get accommodation in the meantime.”
Judge Durcan said: “I am not disposed to having this man locked up any further… I don’t want to see Mr O’Brien unnecessarily locked up. I think everyone is entitled to see the New Year as a New Year.
“What I would like is that this man can be released but obviously, there has to be assistance. The answer isn’t that this man is left in prison so that basically the media can’t get at him there.”
Judge Durcan added: “Everyone is entitled to see dawn leading to dusk and there should be a way of assisting this man.
“I would expect that the media would treat this man with respect and I would hope that Mr O’Brien would receive the respect he deserves as every citizen deserves who has paid the price for what they have done. He stands in the same position as anyone and his respect is paramount.”
Addressing O’Brien, Judge Durcan said he would adjourn the case for one week to allow the Probation Service liaise with Mr Casey to try to identify some accommodation for him.
He said: “If it is that you wish to spend the Spring in prison, you can talk to Mr Casey about that. My preference, Mr Casey, is that this shouldn’t happen.”
Judge Durcan said that breaching the directions of the Sex Offenders register was a very serious matter adding that the circumstances of the case were different as O’Brien was subject to wide media coverage.
Judge Durcan remanded O’Brien in custody to January 10th next for sentencing.
In court last November where he imposed the suspended four month jail term, Judge Durcan read out an extract of the report in court recording that “Mr O’Brien has a substantial conviction record, most notably three convictions for indecent exposure, four convictions for indecent assault and three convictions for attempted murder and several burglaries”.
In October 2003 at Ennis Circuit Court, O’Brien received a six month jail term for the indecent assault of a female minor.
The judge said that the report also stated that “in many cases, one tends to see a decline in offending behaviour and severity. What is very concerning is that Mr O’Brien is 62 years of age and the risk assessment places Mr O’Brien in the ‘high risk’ category for sexual and very high risk category for non sexual offences”.
At that hearing in court, Mr Casey said of his client: “He has no family. No one. He is doing the best he can. He tries to fill his days. It isn’t easy for him. He has his own health difficulties.”
Mr Casey said that O’Brien was abused as a child himself. O’Brien also spent two years under the care of the Granada Institute in Dublin where he participated in a sex offenders’ treatment programme.