Monday 23 September 2019

Journalist Tom Humphries groomed girl for two years before abusing her

Tom Humphries (54) of Corr Castle, Sutton, Dublin, who had his sentencing adjourned for two counts of defilement of a child
Tom Humphries (54) of Corr Castle, Sutton, Dublin, who had his sentencing adjourned for two counts of defilement of a child

Legal Affairs Editor

A ONCE-prominent journalist collected a 16-year-old girl outside her school and brought her to his apartment for sex after he groomed her over a two-year period.

Former `Irish Times' sports writer Tom Humphries (54) had daily contact with the teenager and over 16,000 texts were exchanged between them in the four months before his activities were uncovered.

His behaviour was only discovered after one of his daughters found explicit text messages on an old phone in March 2011, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has heard.

At a sentencing hearing yesterday, the court was told Humphries' victim, who he identified through his involvement in sports teams, became depressed and suicidal after her ordeal. In a victim impact statement, she said she had lost her childhood and her trust in men.

The former journalist previously 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 sexually explicit, indecent or obscene acts in 2010 and 2011.

Judge Karen O'Connor adjourned sentencing to October 24 so she could consider medical reports.

Tom Humphries bombarded a girl with text messages before going on to sexually abuse her in his flat. Photo: Collins
Tom Humphries bombarded a girl with text messages before going on to sexually abuse her in his flat. Photo: Collins

Humphries, who had been free on bail, spent last night under observation at Cloverhill Prison after requesting that he be taken into custody.

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.

While leading Garda Jarlath Burns through the facts of the case, prosecution counsel Shane Costelloe said Humphries began texting the then-14-year-old girl in December 2008. He said 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.

Mr Costelloe said this seemed to "reset" the relationship between them and their messages reverted for a period of months to being about camogie, her life and school.

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, who did not speak during the hearing, wrote a letter of apology to his victim, but the court heard she did not want to read it.

In a victim impact statement read out on her behalf, 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's family for alerting gardai 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.

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 effect of his client's wrongdoing on his family and the fact that he was unlikely to work again.

The barrister handed in a medical report to the court and a number of testimonials, including letters from a journalist and a well known sportsman, about Humphries's journalism career and involvement with the GAA.

In a statement, the `Irish Times' said Humphries had not written for it since early 2011, when it was advised of serious allegations against him.

"He was suspended from employment by The Irish Times on March 31, 2014, when he was formally charged with criminal offences," the statement said.

His employment was terminated with immediate effect on March 8, 2017, after he had pleaded guilty to charges.

The company said the disclosure that Humphries was the subject of serious allegations and of a criminal investigation was a source of shock and distress to his colleagues.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News