Priest cleared of indecent assault at Cork boarding school

Judge not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that boy assaulted at Coláiste an Chroí Naofa Carrignavar


A former teacher at a boarding school run by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart has been cleared of indecently assaulting a teenage boy at the school in the 1980s after a judge said he could not be sure beyond reasonable doubt that the assault happened.

Fr Liam O’Brien (66) of Woodview, Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, Dublin had denied a single charge of indecently assaulting the then 14-year-old boy in a toilet at Coláiste an Chroí Naofa in Carrignavar in Co Cork in the mid -1980s.

The complainant told Cork District Court that he had asked permission from Fr O’Brien to go the toilet during supervised study and he was in the cubicle when he heard a knock and opened the door to find Fr O’Brien outside.

He said Fr O’Brien gestured towards him to show him his penis and Fr O’Brien unzipped his pants, took out his penis and looked him in the eye before leaving him go and walking away. Fr O’Brien said nothing, the complainant told the court.

Fr O’Brien took the witness box to say that he knew the complainant as a boy at the school in the mid 1980s and while he accepted there was no reason why the complainant would tell untruths, he denied the incident ever happened.

Judge Tim Lucey noted the alleged offence happened 30-years-ago and he noted a submission by defence solicitor, Michael Staines, that Fr O’Brienwas at a disadvantage in defending something so long ago after only learning of the complaint in 2012.

In effect, the case amounted to the complainant’s word against that of Fr O’Brien and he had to be certain beyond reasonable doubt that an indecent assault had occurred before he could convict, said Judge Lucey.

“It is the defendant’s rights I have to be most careful of. The complainant has rights in other tribunals but this is criminal law and I have to be very careful. It has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. That is a very high bar to get over.

“I am not satisfied the case has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Judge Lucey, adding that something may well have happened but he could not convict on the evidence before him and he dismissed the charge.