Sunday 21 January 2018

Music teacher jailed for indecently assaulting pupil in his home loses appeal

The Central Criminal Court
The Central Criminal Court

A music teacher jailed for indecently assaulting a pupil in his home 25 years earlier has lost an appeal against conviction.

Breffni O'Rourke (67), who was living in Ferrybank, Waterford at the time of his trial had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to indecently assaulting the then nine-year-old girl in his Stamullen home in June 1987.

He was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to two years imprisonment with the final 12 months suspended by Judge Desmond Hogan on July 30, 2012.

The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against conviction today  on a number of grounds.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said O'Rourke was single at the time and resided alone in a cottage. He was employed in credit control in a public company but also gave music lessons in his spare time.

At some point in 1985, the injured party began music lessons with O'Rourke. The lessons subsequently moved to O'Rourke's home.

As part of his “modus operandi” it was alleged that he tickled the complainant as a preparatory act to the indecent assault.

There was evidence the complainant initially disclosed what had happened to a teacher in 1992 and this was referred to the ISPCC.

She subsequently attended a garda station in 2000 but apparently broke down and was unable to advance the complaint.

However, while attending third level college she met with a counsellor from the Rape Crisis Centre and in May 2003, a formal complaint was made.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the argument that the absence of notes from the 1992 meeting prejudiced O'Rourke was essentially a speculative one.

It was also weakened by the fact that the maker of the notes was available for cross examination, a right that was availed of at trial in a minimal way. The prejudice, as contended by O'Rourke's barrister Colman Cody SC, was “minimal”, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the trial judge adequatly dealt with the issue of delay and it was clear that the defence case was summarised fairly.

The court could not see how a number of other matters such as criticism of the gardaí for not interviewing other parents or for investigating the colour of O'Rourke's van, “could have advanced” his defence.

Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, dismissed the appeal.

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