Tuesday 20 February 2018

Man ordered to pay €100,000 to nephew for years of sexual abuse

Aodhan O'Faolain

THE High Court has ordered a 45-year-old Dublin man to pay €100,000 in damages to his nephew whom he sexually abused on a number of occasions almost 30 years ago.

Keith Battersby, 36, sued his uncle John O'Neill who he said committed 12 sexual assaults on him between 1982 and 1984. The abuse occurred in O'Neill's home and in the projection room of the Grove Cinema in Lucan, where O'Neill worked. It commenced when Mr Battersby was just six years of age.

In 2010, O'Neill was convicted at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of sexually assaulting his nephew. He was given a two-year prison sentence, which was suspended.

Yesterday, Mr Battersby described his abuser as "a monster" who "stole his childhood," and was a man whose moral compass did not exist".

Mr Battersby's action was not contested and judgment had previously been made against O'Neill. The matter was before the High Court yesterday for assessment of damages only.

O'Neill of Sarsfield Park Lucan, Co Dublin, was present in court, but was not legally represented. He said he was deeply sorry for what he had done to his nephew, and a letter of apology was handed to the court.

What he did occurred when he himself was a teenager. He added that following media reports of the criminal case he had lost both his job and was trying to rebuild his life.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said Mr Battersby was entitled to €100,000 damages plus costs against O'Neill.

Mr Battersby had been subject to abuse at a young age which had been a "horrific experience" for him. It had also affected the 36 year old and his family in the years that followed, the judge added.

Referring to the related criminal case, the judge said that sometimes during the criminal process the focus can be on the accused person's rights while the victims can get overlooked, adding to the victim's anxiety.

In his evidence, Mr Battersby, of Kill Fada, Co Meath, said it was very difficult to be in court in proximity to the man who had abused him. His uncle's apology meant nothing to him. He had suffered both mentally and physically as a result of the abuse, and had undergone counselling.

He said the abuse had badly affected his life. He had developed a problem with alcohol in his teens and had dabbled with drugs. He eventually told a family member what had happened to him in 2000 and made a complaint to the Gardai in 2008.

In reply to his counsel, Jack FitzGerald SC, appearing with John Nolan Bl, Mr Battersby said he didn't get justice at the Criminal Courts but rather a judgment. He also told the court that the apology meant nothing to him.

In a letter which Mr Battersby read to the court, he said that "even today there is never any freedom from what my uncle has subjected me to". He said that no punishment will ever truly make all of what had happened to him go away.

He said that he tried so hard to bury the haunting and degrading feelings of shame and disgust that his uncle had created in him. Having to see his uncle's face in court brought back bigger fears than when I was a child.

Being in his uncle's presence catapulted him back to the awful times. His uncle was "a monster who was waiting to seize an opportunity to abuse him".

"You have stolen a childhood that was full of love and turned it into fear. You took something which obviously had no value for you (O'Neill) but was my every being." His uncle, he added, had no regard of the consequences in his later life.

Mr Battersby said that he did not know of any words to truly reflect the pain suffering and life long scars that his uncle had put him through. The pain and suffering caused to Mr Battersby and those around him was immeasurable. His life was "only a shadow of what it could have been".

He added that as a result of what had happened to him he was reluctant to start a family.

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