Saturday 15 December 2018

Former journalist Tom Humphries jailed for two-and-a-half years for the defilement of a child

Tom Humphries. Photo: PA
Tom Humphries. Photo: PA
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Once prominent sports writer Tom Humphries has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for the defilement of a teenage girl.

He was also sentenced to two years in respect of the sexual exploitation of the same girl.

The sentences, handed down to the former ‘Irish Times’ journalist by Judge Karen O’Connor at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, are to run concurrently.

Humphries showed little reaction to the sentences, sitting with his head resting on his hand.

Outside the court after sentencing was handed down the young woman involved thanked and hugged a number of supporters.

The judge said the maximum sentence she could impose on the defilement charges was five years. She said she believed a four-year sentence would be a headline figure in this case, before mitigating factors were taken into account.

Judge O’Connor said the sexual exploitation charges carried a maximum term of life in prison, but she considered a headline figure in this case, before considering mitigating factors, as three years.

In sentencing him to two-and-a-half years and two years respectively for the defilement and sexual exploitation charges, the judge said she was taking into account Humphries’ guilty plea last March.

However, the judge said that while this plea was the “most valuable form of mitigation”, she noted it was not an early plea, which would have been more helpful to the young woman who was subject to his abuse as a child.

She said she was taking into account that Humphries had lost his livelihood and his reputation.

Judge O’Connor said she also considered letters from family members and the impact the case had had on his family.

She also said she considered letters from two “close friends”, as well as the fact Humphries had mental health issues and that one doctor had recommended he get psychiatric treatment.

She noted he had refused such treatment.

Judge O’Connor also said it was difficult not to have sympathy for Humphries “in relation to his current station”.

She said the higher the profile and success of someone in our society, the greater the fall.

The judge also noted he had no previous convictions and had been living a reclusive lifestyle.

The sentences are backdated to October 3, when Humphries went into custody at his own request.

He has been held in the Midlands Prison in recent weeks, but it is not yet clear where he will serve out his sentence.

The sentence came after the court had earlier heard evidence suggesting Humphries groomed the teenage girl for two years by texting her on a daily basis, before bringing her to his apartment for sexual activity when she was 16.

Judge O’Connor said she was of the view Humphries had manipulated the young girl and said there were a number of aggravating factors to his offending.

The journalist initiated contact with the girl when she was 14 and initiated the sexualised content of text messages they exchanged.

He had cultivated this contact.

Humphries, the judge said, was aware of the vulnerability of the girl and the fact she had an eating disorder.

She noted now the abuse had left the girl with feelings of guilt and shame.

Judge O’Connor said the young woman he targeted had lost most of her childhood and her innocence and had continued to suffer in adulthood, even though she was “a very strong person”.

She noted that injured party did not wish to be called “victim” continues to suffer.

The court had previously heard a garda investigation discovered there had been had daily contact with the teenager via text message, starting in December 2008 when she was 14.

Over 16,000 texts were exchanged between them in the four months before his activities were uncovered in March 2011.

His behaviour was only discovered after one of his daughters found explicit text messages on an old phone she got off him to give to a charity which was recycling handsets.

Humphries identified the then-teenager through his volunteer coaching of GAA teams.

In a victim impact statement she revealed she became depressed and suicidal after her ordeal.

Now a young woman, she said she had lost her childhood and her trust in men.

The former journalist admitted to two charges of engaging in a sexual act with a girl under the age of 17 on December 5, 2010 and February 19, 2011.

He has also admitted four counts of sexually exploiting the same child by inviting her to engage or participate in a sexually explicit, indecent or obscene acts in 2010 and 2011.

The former ‘Irish Times’ employee was once regarded as one of the country’s most prominent sports writers and wrote a number of best-selling sports books.

He has not written for the newspaper since the investigation began in 2011 and was dismissed last March when he pleaded guilty to the offences.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court previously heard evidence that the girl did not know how he got her number, but assumed he got it from her GAA club.

Initially the text messages were relatively innocuous and included discussions about camogie, which she played at the time. However, within months he began sending her sexually explicit pictures.

She became upset when she received the messages, deleted them, and texted him telling him not to do it again.

However, there was a change in the content of the text messages in the summer of 2010 and they became more sexual in nature.

Humphries asked her about her sexual contact with other people and initiated texting conversations to do with her sexual experiences.

After she turned 16, the content of the text messages became more personal.

The conversations soon turned to whether they should meet up. The girl didn’t take this seriously, but soon realised Humphries was serious.

A plan was made whereby they would meet on December 5, 2010.

He collected her in his car outside her school that Sunday, when she was supposed to be somewhere else.

He brought her to his apartment where he undressed her down to her underclothes and performed a sex act on her.

She then performed a sex act on him, the court heard.

There were other instances of defilement where the circumstances were broadly similar.

Humphries wrote a letter of apology to the young woman, but the court heard she did not want to read it.

In her victim impact statement read, she said: “I had to deal with sexual encounters at such a young age with a man three times my age, which made me physically, emotionally and mentally ill.”

She thanked Humphries’ family for alerting gardaí after they discovered what was going on.

“Without them reporting this I do not know where I would be today. I will be forever grateful to them for saving me from this situation,” she said.

At a previous hearing Hugh Hartnett SC, for Humphries, said his client was truly remorseful, had attempted suicide twice and was at risk of a further attempt.

He asked the judge to take into account the affect of his client’s wrongdoing on his family and the fact that he was unlikely to work again.


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