Monday 18 December 2017

Retired school teacher (77) jailed for one year for abusing nine-year-old pupil

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Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Leo Hickey (77) was jailed as Judge Sean O'Donnabhain warned Cork Circuit Criminal Court that Mr Hickey's acts were "disgraceful."

"He took advantage of a very young and impressionable boy. This was a substantial breach of trust," he warned.

Judge O'Donnabhain imposed a three year prison sentence but agreed to suspend the final two years in light of Mr Hickey's advanced age and health issues.

The retired primary school teacher was convicted last February by a jury on eight counts of sexually assaulting a former male student in a Cork primary school in 1991 and 1992.

John Devlin BL, for Mr Hickey, said his client was someone of "national notoriety" because of a previous conviction.

Mr Hickey was jailed for three years in June 1998 after he pleaded guilty to 21 sample counts from an indictment of 387 counts of abusing girls at Dunderrow National School between 1964 and 1973.

He was principal of the school at the time.

One of those he abused was Louise O'Keeffe who later took a successful action against the State to the European Court of Human Rights.

Ms O'Keeffe claimed the State had failed to properly protect her from abuse at Dunderrow National School.

In a landmark judgement, the European Court of Human Rights found in favour of the Cork mother.

Last February, complainant Daniel Kelleher (34) waived his right to anonymity as he said he wanted to put what happened behind him.

Mr Kelleher of Ballincollig, Co Cork, in a victim impact statement read out on his behalf, said the abuse had altered the entire course of his life.

"I put on a tough exterior but inside I was crying over my dirty secret," he said.

"I went off-track in my life. I had a disdain for authority. I felt so ashamed (over what happened)."

"I felt totally confused by what had happened. (It was) a vile act of a grown man to abuse a young boy."

"It had a devastating effect on me."

Mr Kelleher said he wished Mr Hickey of Realt na Mara, Skevanish, Innishannon, Co Cork  had admitted the incidents so as not to force him to relive what happened during the trial.

Mr Hickey pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sexual assault before Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

The charges all related to various dates between November 1991 and June 1992.

The complainant was aged between nine and ten years when the incidents occurred.

All the charges related to Scoil Eoin Boys National School in Ballincollig, Co Cork where the boy was a primary school student.

He said the teacher fondled his private parts - and was asked to do the same.

The incidents occurred in the classroom, hallway, toilet and sports pitch of the school.

"It was a living hell," he said.

"I believe that what happened to me as a boy made me go down a dark path."

"My life stopped then. My life was over from that time.

"I don't know why I didn't tell (anyone) back then. I should have. But I was afraid. I bottled it all up. I tried to block it out."

The young man said the defendant used to tell him he was "a good boy" and "special" during the abuse incidents.

"Looking back now, it was grooming," he said.

The complainant said he was bullied by other students on the basis he was perceived as "the teacher's pet."

Judge O'Donnabhain imposed a one year prison sentence but agreed to backdate it to February 24 when Mr Hickey was taken into custody.

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