Woman awarded €300,000 over abuse by former neighbour

Sinead Lay was 14 when she was groomed and sexually assaulted by Fergus Delaney

Sinead Lay is  pictured at the Four Courts on Friday following her High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Sinead Lay is pictured at the Four Courts on Friday following her High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts.


A High Court judge has awarded €300,000 damages, including €50,000 punitive damages, to a woman against a former neighbour whom she claimed groomed her as a schoolgirl before later allegedly sexually assaulting her.

Sinead Lay was just 14 in September 2000 when she was “lured into a close relationship” with Fergus Delaney, then in his late 30s, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said.

Ms Lay took civil proceedings against Mr Delaney in the High Court. He did not defend the case and it was before Mr Justice Cross for assessment of damages.

The judge awarded total damages of €300,000 and, on the application of Deirdre O’Donohue BL, instructed by solicitor David MacMunn for Ms Lay, also awarded the costs of the proceedings against Mr Delaney.

Ms Lay (32), of Monasterevin, Co Kildare, had sued Mr Delaney, who is now in his mid 50s, of Allendale Lawns, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow.

She claimed she was severely traumatised and suffered life long consequences as a result of alleged sexual assaults when she was a schoolgirl.

She claimed Mr Delaney, a former neighbour of hers when she lived in Tallaght, Dublin, had misused his position of authority to lure her into a close relationship. She claimed that when she moved with her family to Co Kildare in September 2000, he began to text her and later sexually assaulted her on several occasions between November 2000 and August 2001.

Making the award on Friday, Mr Justice Cross said he fully accepted everything that Ms Lay said in evidence to the court as true.


“None of this is or was her own fault. She was not of an age in any way to consent to the attention given or what was done to her. The only person responsible is the defendant,” the judge said.

He praised Ms Lay for her courage in giving evidence and said she was entitled to be compensated for the grooming, assaults and the disruption and ruination of her life for the last 20 years. He said he hoped coming to court would help Ms Lay’s recovery and noted that she has a supportive family and has been in a supportive relationship for the last five years and has returned to study.

Mr Justice Cross said Mr Delaney, who was an uncle of a friend of Ms Lay’s, had engaged in a grooming exercise in relation to the then 14-year-old. He did so “first by commenting on her appearance” and then he “lured her into a close relationship with him”.

After she moved to Kildare, he texted her and she met him and he kissed and fondled her, the judge said. The judge said the girl was lonely in school and the defendant put pressure on her to return to her Dublin school and he would collect her.


The judge said that in August 2001, Mr Delaney collected the girl from school and drove to an isolated spot in the Curragh where a sexual assault took place. The judge said the girl’s mother became concerned about who was texting her daughter and Ms Lay told her mother what had happened and they went to the gardaí.

The man continued to text and, when Ms Lay was in Dublin with her mother, had met her and brought her to his home. When her mother became suspicious and went looking for her daughter, Mr Delaney answered the door in his boxer shorts.

At one stage, the girl wrote to Mr Delaney apologising about the gardaí and expressing love which “demonstrated the extent of the manipulation of her and nothing more”, the judge said. Ms Lay had suffered ongoing depressive disorder, he found.