Friday 23 August 2019

Sentencing of paedophile scout leader delayed as judge asks if he accepts guilt for his crimes

Guilty: James ‘Jim’ Leddy Snr was convicted of indecent assault
Guilty: James ‘Jim’ Leddy Snr was convicted of indecent assault

By Jessica Magee

A judge has delayed sentencing a paedophile scout leader who abused a 13-year-old neighbour over confusion surrounding whether or not he accepts his guilt.

James Leddy (55) was found guilty of three counts of indecently assaulting Colm Bracken at Leddy’s former home on Maryfield Avenue in Artane on dates between May and September 1981

Mr Bracken said his life became a living nightmare, where memories of the abuse were like a horror movie that played endlessly in his head “with no off or mute button”.

Leddy had pleaded not guilty but was convicted on all counts by majority verdict after a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last December.

Judge Pauline Codd was due to sentence Leddy on Monday, but adjourned it until October pending a new probation report.

Fiona Murphy SC, defending, said Leddy had no recollection of the offences but accepted the verdict of the jury and knew he must take responsibility for his actions.

“There is an acceptance of wrongdoing,” she said.

However, Judge Codd cited a previous Probation Service report saying that Leddy “adamantly denies” his guilt, and said she could not pass sentence without clarity on Leddy’s position.

Brave: Colm Bracken waived his anonymity and hopes to encourage other victims of abuse to come forward
Brave: Colm Bracken waived his anonymity and hopes to encourage other victims of abuse to come forward

“I’m getting conflicting messages,” said Judge Codd.

In the victim impact statement read out on his behalf, Mr Bracken said that at one stage of his life he carried a rucksack with 'a length of rope to tie around my neck and finally put a tourniquet on my memories'.

The court heard Leddy was a former leader of the 49th Ardlea Scouts troop and a married father-of-five, with no previous convictions.

Colm Bracken (51), who waived his right to anonymity, wrote a victim impact statement read out on his behalf. He said he grew up a few doors down from Leddy and joined the 49th Ardlea Cub Scouts aged seven and moved onto Scouts at 11.

Mr Bracken said his happy, carefree childhood in a close-knit community disappeared when Leddy first abused him in 1981, around the time of his 13th birthday.

He said he had been playing on the street with a friend when Leddy called him over and invited him in to his house to learn first aid.

Leddy offered the boy a cigarette and asked him to sit on his lap. Leddy then told the boy to lie across his lap, before pulling down his trousers and sexually assaulting him.

Mr Bracken told gardaí he didn’t know what was going on. Leddy told the child not to tell anyone or he would tell his parents that he’d been smoking.

“My father would have killed me if he found out I was smoking. My silence was a guarantee,” said Mr Bracken.

The court heard that Leddy abused the child some days later and several more times over the course of the summer.

Mr Bracken said he could not comprehend how different his life might have been had he not crossed paths with “a paedophile dressed as a scout leader”.

The court heard Mr Bracken worked seven days a week to try to distract himself and had spent several long periods in hospital, strapped to a bed on suicide watch.

He said on one occasion, he had been standing on a bridge ready to jump when a phone call from his son made him realise he could never transfer his pain onto his son’s shoulders.

Mr Bracken said when he realised that Leddy had a private bus hire company with access to children, he decided to contact gardaí in 2011.

Garda Deirdre McInerney told Gerardine Small, prosecuting, that Leddy made a voluntary statement in 2013 at the request of gardaí.

Leddy told gardaí he knew Mr Bracken as a neighbour, but didn’t understand the accusations and didn’t remember anything.

Fiona Murphy SC, defending, said Leddy was 17 at the time of the offences and had gone on to live a productive life. A letter from Pieta House confirmed Leddy was attending counselling.

Ms Murphy said her client left school at 14 and worked various jobs, including as a taxi driver before working as a bus driver until 2017.

She said Leddy - of Sheephill Avenue, Blanchardstown, Dublin - was on the Sex Offenders’ Register which was part of his punishment, and was subject to publicity after his conviction as well as considerable abuse online.

In the victim impact statement read out on his behalf, Mr Bracken said that at one stage of his life he carried a rucksack with “a length of rope to tie around my neck and finally put a tourniquet on my memories”.

He said that going through a trial was like “reliving the hell” Leddy had put him through in graphic detail under public scrutiny, and had caused great distress to his wife, family and ageing parents.

He said the although the guilty verdict brought “some relief” in that he had been vindicated in a court of law, it would never eradicate what Leddy had done.

Mr Bracken said he would probably remain an outpatient at various psychiatric institutions.

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