Tuesday 18 December 2018

Hurling star Donal Óg sorry for letter to help paedophile writer

Donal Óg Cusack says he showed a lack of judgement with his character reference for paedophile Tom Humphries. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Donal Óg Cusack says he showed a lack of judgement with his character reference for paedophile Tom Humphries. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

Hurling star Donal Óg Cusack has broken his silence to confirm he wrote a character reference for paedophile sports writer Tom Humphries, saying his intention was "to help a human in a dark place".

However, the All-Ireland winner said he had shown a "lack of judgement" and apologised for any hurt or offence caused by his action.

Earlier this month, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard in shocking detail how the former 'Irish Times' journalist exchanged more than 16,000 text messages with a teenage girl he groomed and sexually abused.

Humphries pleaded guilty earlier this year to six offences, dating from 2010 and 2011, including the sexual exploitation and defilement of a child.

Two character references were handed in to the court on Humphries' behalf - one from Mr Cusack and another from the 'Sunday Times' chief sports writer David Walsh.

Mr Walsh last week defended his decision to write the letter, saying he could not "abandon" his friend of 30 years.

Tom Humphries. Photo: PA
Tom Humphries. Photo: PA

In his character reference for Humphries, he described him as a "hugely regarded" and "hugely respected" sports writer. At the weekend, Mr Cusack, a coach with Clare and a former goalkeeper for Cork, said he was "genuinely sorry" for writing the character reference.

"I am the sportsman referenced as having written a character reference in the Tom Humphries case," Mr Cusack wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. "I absolutely condemn the crimes he has committed. I cannot begin to imagine the terrible suffering of the victim.

"I apologise for any hurt or offence caused by my action. My intention was to help a human in a dark place who asked me for help. I showed a lack of judgement in this situation for which I am genuinely sorry. I will not be making any further comment and wish to let justice take its course," he added.

Mr Cusack had been approached a number of times in recent weeks for comment after it emerged that he wrote the letter.

The court heard that there was a testimonial from a "well-known sportsman" in the GAA who detailed Humphries' volunteer work in the GAA and expressed "shock and disappointment" at his offending.

Last week, Mr Walsh was quoted in the 'Sunday Times' as saying: "The young girl whose trust Tom betrayed has suffered terribly from this crime.

"I wrote a personal character reference for Tom because we have been friends for 30 years and, despite the serious wrong he has done, I could not abandon him."

Rape Crisis Networks Ireland has expressed concerns about the practice of submitting reference letters in such cases.

The court had earlier heard contact started between Humphries and the girl after he obtained the girl's number from a third party and sent her an unsolicited text offering her encouragement on her camogie playing.

He also texted her about personal issues she was going through at the time and encouraged her to keep playing with her local GAA club.

After a while, the messages became sexually explicit.

Humphries will be sentenced on October 24.

Irish Independent

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