Tom Humphries left victim feeling suicidal and suffering flashbacks

‘Dealing with sexual encounters with a man three times my age made me physically, mentally, emotionally ill,’ victim says

Tom Humphries: the former sports journalist exchanged at least 16,000 text messages with his victim, as part of the grooming process, before sexually abusing her. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Tom Humphries: the former sports journalist exchanged at least 16,000 text messages with his victim, as part of the grooming process, before sexually abusing her. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The former Irish Times sports journalist Tom Humphries, who has been jailed for 2½ years for grooming and sexually abusing a teenage girl, left his victim feeling suicidal and suffering from flashbacks and panic attacks.

Humphries has spent the three weeks since his last court hearing in custody, at Midlands Prison, at his own request. After his sentencing on Tuesday he was brought to Mountjoy Prison, from where he will likely be transferred to Arbour Hill or Wheatfield, the two main facilities for housing sex offenders.

During the sentence hearing at the start of October, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard an eloquent victim-impact report in which the young woman said she felt Humphries stole her childhood, along with her passion for camogie, the sport Humphries used to initiate contact with her, when she was 14.

Humphries exchanged at least 16,000 text messages with the girl over three months leading up to March 2011, as part of the grooming process, before sexually abusing her.

The woman also said she felt she had allowed Humphries to manipulate her. On Tuesday Judge Karen O’Connor briefly departed from her sentencing remarks to address this. “She didn’t allow herself to be manipulated. She was manipulated,” she said.

In her victim-impact report, which was read by counsel, the woman said: “Dealing with sexual encounters with a man three times my age made me physically, mentally and emotionally ill.” She said she has lost her trust in men and now has “permanent flashbacks and severe panic attacks”. She also suffers from depression, which has caused her to lose friends and miss out on social life. “I never felt as low and as small about myself when this happened to me,” she wrote.

In a passage that the prosecution called remarkable, the woman thanked Humphries’s family for bringing the abuse to Garda attention. “Without them reporting this I do not know where I would be today. I hope you can all get past this and go on to live a normal and healthy life,” she wrote.

Explicit messages

The offending first came to light in March 2011, when Humphries’s daughter was collecting old mobile phones for charity. When she turned on one that her father had donated, to make sure it still worked, she found a large number of sexually explicit text messages that Humphries had sent to someone stored in his phone under a false name.

After showing the messages to her mother, she and her mother’s brother confronted Humphries, who was estranged from his wife at the time. He made a partial admission and told them he was going to take his own life. At this stage Humphries’s daughter checked another two of his old phones and found more messages. Humphries was brought to hospital, as a suicide risk, while the Garda was alerted and given the three phones.

A large-scale investigation began involving the Garda’s computer-crimes unit. Gardaí discovered that the recipient of the messages was a girl Humphries had started to contact in 2008, when he sent her an unsolicited text offering her encouragement on her camogie playing. He also texted her about personal issues she was going through at the time and encouraged her to keep playing GAA with her local club.

After a while the messages became sexually explicit. Humphries twice sent the girl photographs of his genitals, which upset her. She asked him not to send any more of them, and he apologised. His messages became more innocent for a while, but they then became sexual again.

Texts snapshot

The prosecution read some of the messages in court, describing them as “a snapshot of the types of texts exchanged between the accused and the complainant when she was 16”. Sometimes Humphries would exchange emojis and smiley faces with her. But he would also ask the girl about her sex life, repeatedly refer to his genitals, and tell her what acts he would like to perform on her. Once, after she thanked him for buying her a burger, he replied with an explicit reference to his genitals.

The computer-crimes unit uncovered thousands of texts sent between Christmas 2008, when the girl was 14, and April 2011, when she was 17. Eventually he asked her to meet him. The girl thought he was joking at first but then realised he was serious.

The first time they met he picked her up from her school at 10am and brought her to an apartment for oral sex. In April 2011 she told gardaí she had met Humphries on five occasions when sexual acts took place, including oral sex but not full intercourse.

After the text messages were found Humphries spent about a year in a psychiatric facility. He was arrested by appointment in September 2012 but declined to say anything when gardaí interviewed him.