‘He said he would kill my mother and father if I opened my mouth’

Kilmallock sex abuser Pat O’Brien ordered to pay Cian McCarthy (20) €200,000 damages

A man who was sexually abused as a child by a neighbour has been awarded €200,000 damages by the High Court.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

A man who was sexually abused as a child by a neighbour has been awarded €200,000 damages by the High Court. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

A man who was sexually abused as a child by a neighbour has been awarded €200,000 damages by the High Court.

Cian McCarthy was aged just seven when he was first abused by his neighbour Pat O’Brien who lived across the road from his family’s home in Kilmallock, Co Limerick.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna heard the abuse was accompanied by threats to slit his parents’ throats if the boy reported what had happened and others to harm his siblings.

Mr McCarthy believed these threats and that “added to the sexual abuse an element of terror which must have impacted horribly on a child of tender years,” the judge said.

Mr McCarthy, now aged 20, of Ballygibba, Kilmallock, had sued O’Brien (67), of Tankardstown, Kilmallock, for assault and trespass to the person on different dates between 2004 and 2006. Liability was admitted in the case and the matter was before the High Court for assessment of damages only.

Guilty plea

O’Brien pleaded guilty in 2008 at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to six counts of sexual assaulting Mr McCarthy and was sentenced to three years imprisonment with the last 18 months suspended provided he stay away from Kilmallock for 15 years.

The Court of Appeal later increased the sentence to five years with two years suspended on condition O’Brien give a similar undertaking.

Opening the case, Michael MacGrath BL, for Mr McCarthy, said O’Brien did not provide the undertaking and, after serving his sentence, went back to live opposite the McCarthys. The family had to build a high wall so Mr McCarthy did not have to see his abuser, the court heard.

In evidence about the abuse, Mr McCarthy said O’Brien would come up behind him and would kiss and fondle him. He said O’Brien did it in his own house and also once in the McCarthy home when his mother had gone to the shop.

“He said he would kill my mother and father if I opened my mouth. He said he would slit their throats. I was so young I believed everything that came out of his mouth,” he said.

Mr McCarthy said he eventually was able to tell another relative who in turn told his parents who called in the gardaí.

Lasting effect

In his decision on damages, Mr Justice Hanna said the abuse has had a lasting effect on Mr McCarthy to this day.

When O’Brien returned home to Kilmallock after serving his sentence, he was within his rights, the judge said. While the court could not fault O’Brien in law for returning to the area, it could take into account the impact that had on Mr McCarthy, the judge said.

The judge also said Mr McCarthy’s mother Mary had complained “rightly” that her son’s childhood had been taken away by the assaults. While Mr McCarty was from a loving family, the abuse must have interfered greatly with his development, he added.

He assessed damages at €200,000.