AN ELDERLY man who admitted to abusing young boys over a 40-year period, and who had undertaken volunteer work in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, was sentenced on Thursday to 13 years in prison.
Patrick O’Brien, aged 76, of Knocklyon Road, Templeogue, on the south side of Dublin, was described as a “prolific child-molester”. He pleaded guilty to 54 sample counts of indecent and sexual assault, involving 40 boys, at a sentencing hearing before Justice Melanie Greally at the Circuit Criminal Court. The book of evidence contained a total of 128 charges.
Mr O’Brien, who had lived alone with his mother, became a volunteer guide at St Patrick’s, the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. He never held office or was employed in any capacity by the cathedral.
The court was told that one young boy was sexually assaulted in a room off the main aisle of the cathedral while worship was in progress only yards away.
The barrister Seán Guerin SC, defending, said that his client was “truly remorseful and ashamed of his actions”, and noted that Mr O’Brien had himself been abused as a child.
The retired Dean of St Patrick’s, Dr Robert MacCarthy, commenting on the case afterwards, said that the abuse at the cathedral took place before his tenure there, but he was alerted to a previous conviction of the defendant for abusing a former pupil of the cathedral grammar school at the age of eight, who was also in the choir.
Dr MacCarthy said that he was approached by the victim, now aged 44, who, when aged 15, told his parents, and a complaint was made to the Gardaí. Mr O’Brien had pleaded guilty, and received a suspended sentence, and then continued to volunteer at St Patrick’s, where he continued abusing.
On learning of the court case, Dr MacCarthy removed him from his role as a volunteer worker, and Mr O’Brien stopped coming to the cathedral.
The Church of Ireland press office issued a statement after the sentencing, saying: “St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and the wider Church of Ireland community have been deeply dismayed at the nature and extent of the offences.”
Survivor tells of relief after Bishop's apology
THE Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, has said that he believes that a man was a childhood victim of sexual abuse by a former Archdeacon of Auckland, even though the priest was found not guilty of the alleged offence by a jury, writes Paul Wilkinson.
Granville Gibson, aged 80, who was Archdeacon of Auckland from 1993 to 2001, is serving a 12-month prison sentence, after being convicted in August of two counts of indecent assault involving two young men during the late 1970s and early ’80s. But he was cleared of allegations that involved the boy (News, 12 August).
In a letter to the complainant, however, Bishop Butler wrote: “I believe that you were abused by Granville Gibson, as you reported. I am deeply sorry that a clergyman behaved this way towards you, misusing his position and power and abusing his position of trust. I am also sorry that it has taken so long for you to feel that your story has been heard.
“Clearly, the healing journey is a long one, but I hope that this latest step will be a significant one along the way.”
Bishop Butler wrote his letter after what has been described as an emotional meeting with the man, who later told the Northern Echo: “I feel relieved that he does believe me. The other victims got an apology, but I never did, and I needed to know that I was believed. It is a relief to have that apology, and it means so much to me that I am believed by the Church.”
The man said that he was first abused when he was an 11-year-old churchgoer at St Clare’s, Newton Aycliffe, in Co. Durham. “I don’t understand why he wasn’t found guilty,” he said. “I was the only one in court not to be believed, and I feel terrible and sometimes suicidal. If I’d known he would be found ‘Not guilty’, I’d never have put myself through all of this.”
A spokesman for Bishop Butler said: “I can confirm that the Bishop of Durham met with the person quoted in the Northern Echo report. This was a private meeting; so we won’t be commenting further. The letter was also private.”