A 75-year-old former scout leader has been remanded on continuing bail after a jury failed to reach a verdict in a case where he was charged with indecently assaulting a boy in Co Cork.
Noel Sheehan, of Chimneyfields, Glenville, Co Cork, had denied a single count of indecent assault on the 13-year-old boy at an address in Glenville on a date unknown between January 7th, 1986 and April 31st, 1987.
The complainant, who is now aged 48, told the jury of three men and nine women on the opening day of the trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court that he was part of a group of scouts who were staying at a derelict building that they were doing up for use by the scouts in Glenville.
He said he and another boy scout were sleeping on the floor upstairs where Mr Sheehan was also sleeping.
The man said he woke to the sound of his sleeping bag being unzipped.
“I think for a split moment I thought it is the lads messing but this never, ever happened before. At that moment Noel Sheehan is next to me. It is a hairy hand, a man’s hand comes into my sleeping bag,” he said.
The man said that his private parts were fondled by Mr Sheehan. “That is the moment that is vivid in my life. I never forgot that moment... five to 10 minutes – it seemed a lot longer.
“I am frozen. I want to do something but I can’t. I stop there frozen, paralysed, I can’t move. I can’t believe this is what is happening to me. I pray the morning will come quickly,” he said.
The court was told there was nothing said during the disputed incident and Mr Sheehan later dropped him and the other scouts home after the weekend away.
The complainant reported the allegation to a helpline in December 2019 and later contacted gardaí in Fermoy, who began an investigation.
Cross-examined by defence barrister Donal O’Sullivan BL, the complainant rejected a suggestion that Mr Sheehan used to cordon off a sleeping area for himself upstairs by surrounding his space with chairs as a barrier.
“100 per cent no, no way, there was no barrier, 100 per cent no way was there barriers,” said the complainant.
The jury heard memos of an interview by gardaí with Mr Sheehan, who told Det Garda David Moynihan of Fermoy Garda station that he had joined the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland in 1959 and became a scout leader in 1965.
“I would never sleep near the young fellas. The fire had to be watched, the door had to be watched, the smokers had to be watched. It never happened. It would never happen,” he told gardaí.
He denied that he indecently assaulted the complainant, describing the allegation as “rubbish”.
When the details of the alleged assault were put to him, he replied: “I categorically deny it. Not him, nor anyone else.”
“You file your report and I will fill the court with witnesses,” said Mr Sheehan in reply to another question by gardaí, before saying that he thought the complainant was “a bit of a fantasist”.
On Thursday, the second day of the trial, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin recalled the jury after almost three hours of deliberations and asked them whether or not giving them more time would help 10 or more of them reach a verdict.
When the jury foreman said he believed it would not, the judge thanked them for their deliberations and asked the court registrar, David Power, to record a "disagree verdict".
“That is the result, we all live to fight another day – thank you for your time,” said Judge Ó Donnabháin as he remanded Mr Sheehan on continuing bail to appear in court again on October 27th.