Saturday 15 December 2018

12 years for GAA caretaker who sexually abused four children

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Stock picture

Aisling Kiernan

A former GAA caretaker has been sentenced to 12 years in jail after pleading guilty to sexually abusing four young children aged between four and 15-years-old.

Jimmy McDonnell (63), Annaly Park, Longford appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson at Longford Circuit Court today facing 45 sample counts of  sexually assaulting the children at a midlands GAA ground between the years of 2000 and 2008.

McDonnell, a former member of the defence forces and a Sinn Féin councillor for Longford, also faced charges of production, possession and distribution of child pornography.

One 7-year-old boy was abused for eight years, sometimes on a daily basis and Mr McDonnell videotaped it.

The abuse began when he struck up friendships with four children, one was as young as 4.

Judge Keenan Johnson said the defendant had engaged in “deviant premeditated behaviour” and had groomed the children to abuse them.

“The accused still doesn’t have any empathy for his victims but each of them deserve enormous credit for going to the gardaí,” Judge Johnson said. “Mr McDonnell led them to believe that he was someone they could trust; he groomed them and breached that trust.

“The abuse took place over a period of eight or nine years and there was habitual and predatory abuse on one child in particular,” he added.

The Judge said that in one victim impact statement, one victim said that the accused had taken away their childhood.

“The doctor also stated in his report that the child was tortured by what had happened,” Judge Johnson said. “The effect of the abuse on all the victims has been profound and life changing.”

McDonnell’s wife had no idea of his offending, the judge said, and she and their daughter are suffering from “hurt, isolation and embarrassment”, the judge said,

During the hearing, Mr Des Dockery SC for the accused, that his client had cooperated with the gardaí, had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had no convictions prior to the matter before the court.  

Mr Dockery also read a letter written by Mr McDonnell where he apologised to the four children. “It is a terrible cross I have given you all to deal with throughout your lives,” said the accused in his letter. “I am very sorry.”

Justice Johnson said it was clear that the accused had “no victim empathy” and “didn’t give a second thought to the devastating consequences”.

“Indeed it would appear from the probation report that the accused still doesn’t have any empathy for his victims and the only decent thing that he has done is to plead guilty and cooperate with the gardaí in the investigation of the offences,” he said. McDonnell was placed on the sex offenders register and the final four years of his sentence were suspended.

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