Sunday 16 June 2019

Former meditation teacher jailed for three years for sexual attacks on a child

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Brion Hoban and Declan Brennan

A former meditation teacher has been jailed for three years for sexual attacks on a child in the 1970s.

Bernard Ward (71) was working as a teacher at the Transcendental Meditation Centre in Dublin city when he abused a child who was attending the centre.

The victim and his parents had received training for the meditation technique at the centre and the child began working there at weekends when he was aged ten.

The trial heard evidence that Ward, of Knockmaroon Estate, Castleknock, Dublin molested the child in a shower room in the centre.

Ward had pleaded not guilty to three counts of indecent assault at the centre on Eccles Street, Dublin on dates between January 1, 1974 and December 31, 1977. After a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last March a jury convicted him, by majority, of these charges.

The jury acquitted him of a further charge of indecent assault at a different location in Dublin city centre between the same dates.

Judge Elma Sheahan said Ward's inability to accept the jury verdict and show any remorse indicated a complete lack of insight on his part. She said the offending lay at the mid-range of this type of crime.

She imposed consecutive sentences totaling three and a half years and suspended the last six months. She said Ward's action were an abuse of trust given his position as a teacher in a place where the victim's parents saw as “a place of safety”.

She noted Ward has a number of medical ailments and is now a elderly grandfather with a supportive family. He has no previous convictions, is married and has three adult children.

In a victim impact statement, which was read out in court, the injured party said he had lost out on so much in his life as a result of the sexual abuse. He said he was in and out of clinics as a result of the abuse but said he is proud to still be alive today.

“I was just a young boy who should have been kept safe,” he said.

James Dwyer SC, defending, asked the judge to take into account that the offending behaviour did not involve prolonged abuse, that his client had no other blemish on his character and that he was now an elderly grandparent with medical difficulties.

During the trial the jury heard evidence that Ward had met “the Maharishi” in Switzerland in the mid '70s and taken part “almost as guinea pigs” in experimental meditation techniques.

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