Friday 15 December 2017

Retired teacher Leo Hickey guilty of sexually assaulting pupil (9)

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Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A RETIRED teacher was convicted of sexually assaulting a nine year old former pupil who described the abuse as leaving him enduring "a living hell".

Leo Hickey (77) was convicted by unanimous verdict of a Cork Circuit Criminal Court jury on eight counts of sexually assaulting the former student in a primary school in 1991 and 1992.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated on their verdict for an hour and five minutes after a day long trial.

The 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 became very emotional when the unanimous guilty verdicts were returned.

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain remanded Mr Hickey of Realt na Mara, Skevanish, Innishannon, Co Cork in custody for sentencing on May 9 next.

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

The charges involved one individual and 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.

The complainant told the trial he was "abused and molested" by Mr Hickey.

He claimed the teacher fondled his private parts - and then took his hand and made him fondle his private parts.

On another occasion, he claimed the teacher put a tin whistle inside his trousers, took it out and then handed it to the boy, asking him to play 'Amazing Grace' on it.

When the boy refused, he was given lines as a punishment.

He said the teacher also attempted to grab his private parts while they were out on a football pitch and he was so uncomfortable he ran back to class.

The complainant said 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".

Mr Kelleher vehemently rejected suggestions by defence counsel, John Devlin BL, that he was making up all the allegations.

"I wish I was. But I had to live through it. I have children myself (today). Why would anyone in their right mind make this up?"

"I was abused by Mr Hickey. I was molested by Mr Hickey. I am here now reliving it all. It changed my life. I am a different person today over it. There was no getting away from him."

"I just want to put this behind me. Who in their right mind would make this up?"

The complainant's mother gave evidence and said she noticed a dramatic change in her son around the 1991/1992 period.

"He was a normal little boy and did everything normal little boys would do. But he became very, very anxious (from 1991/1992)," she said.

The woman said that eventually her son would shout and roar that he didn't want to go to school.

"He was very distressed," she said.

Mr Hickey denied that the sexual assaults ever occurred.

In evidence, he said he didn't even remember the complainant.

"If he was very troublesome, backward or very clever I might remember him," he said.

"But he seems to have been a very much average middle-of-the-road student because I have no recollection of him."

He also denied every taking any boy to the school toilets.

Judge O'Donnabhain remanded Mr Hickey in custody for sentencing in May to allow for the preparation of a victim impact statement.

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