In sentencing Tom Humphries on Tuesday, Judge Karen O'Connor said he had fallen from a "high-profile position" in society and that "it was hard not to have sympathy for him".
“It’s something of a truism to say the higher the profile and success of a member of society, the greater the fall,” Judge O’Connor said. “It would be difficult not to have sympathy for him. That’s not to excuse his behaviour.”
The former Irish Times sports journalist was facing up to five years for the sexual abuse of his victim and a maximum of life in prison for grooming her beforehand.
In detailed sentencing remarks, Judge O’Connor said she viewed the offending as at the “upper end of the mid-range” in terms of seriousness. She said if there were no mitigating factors she would have jailed Humphries for four years for defilement and three years for sexual exploitation.
She said the aggravating factors in the case included the disparity in age and “position” between Humphries and the girl as well as the fact he targeted a “vulnerable” person. The court heard he was aware she suffered from an eating disorder.
She said the fact he initiated contact with the girl and the highly sexual nature of the messages were also aggravating features as was the nature of the sexual abuse.
The judge said the most relevant aggravating factor was the effect on the injured party, who “has lost much of her childhood and her innocence”.
Judge O’Connor noted the victim suffered from feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred and lost her passion for GAA. She also noted the case was dragged out for several years before Humphries entered a guilty plea and that this had an adverse effect on the victim.
After outlining the “headline sentence” and the aggravating factors, Judge O’Connor went on to detail the factors in his favour, the most crucial of which was his guilty plea. This meant the woman did not have to go through the trauma of a trial.
However, the judge refused to give him full credit as the plea only came in March of this year, five years after the offences were first reported .
The judge also outlined how he lost his "reputation, his livelihood and most of his friends". She also took into account character references from the chief Sunday Times sports writer David Walsh, and former Cork hurler Donal Óg Cusack, as well as references from his family.
During a sentencing hearing three weeks ago, Humphries’s defence team handed in a 50-page bundle of testimonials and medical reports.
Judge O’Connor appeared to pay significant attention to these medical documents, including reports that Humphries was suffering from mental and physical problems at the time of his offending, along with dealing with marriage breakdown.
She said it was “a difficult time in his life” but rejected a defence submission that he was suffering from a “neuro-cognitive” disorder which might have impaired his judgement. “He was aware of his wrongdoing,” she said.
It was these factors, along with his guilty plea, his physical and mental health problems and his “remorse” that caused her to reduce his sentence from four years.
Regarding his current mental state, she noted he has attempted suicide twice, but is now refusing psychological treatment because he claims he feels he does not deserve it.
Judge O’Connor imposed a 2½-year term for the defilement and a two-year term for the sexual exploitation.
These will run alongside each other, meaning an effective 2½-year term sentence. The judge declined to impose a post-release supervision order.