Thursday 15 November 2018

Sex offending awareness 'must be taught in school' - says judge in Ireland's busiest Children's Court

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Tom Tuite

A judge at Ireland's busiest Children's Court has called for teenage sex offending awareness programmes in schools.

Judge John O'Connor's remark yesterday came while dealing with the case of a youth who admitted sexually assaulting a girl in a south Dublin park last year.

The teenager, then aged 16, admitted groping her backside but despite pleading guilty he later claimed she exaggerated, which the judge did not accept.

These type of offences had become more common in the last 18 months, said Judge O'Connor.

"There needs to be an awareness programme done in schools in relation to this," he added.

"The reality is it is very difficult from the court's point of view when dealing with abuse issues."

Extensive studies on risk management have found that teenage defendants who availed of treatment are almost on the same level as children who have never offended, Judge O'Connor also said.

The teenager had pleaded guilty in July but later in meetings with the Probation Service he disputed the girl's account.

He also maintained that she must have been lying because she decided not to give a victim impact statement.

Judge O'Connor told him that victims often find it too much and it was sometimes like having to relive a nightmare.

Sentencing was adjourned for an updated probation report on the youth to be prepared.

The case is to resume in December.

The court had heard earlier that a group of youths had met up at a park and the defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had repeatedly touched her backside.

Direction

The youth, who had spent time in care, was accompanied to the hearing by a social worker.

He did not address the court in the hearing.

Defence solicitor Niamh Kelly asked the judge to note that the youth had on occasion struggled to interpret non- verbal communication, which was in line with the offence to which he had pleaded guilty.

He was co-operating with a treatment programme and the Probation Service, the court was told.

The court heard the youth had been left to "fend for himself" from the age of 15 and consequently he found it difficult to take direction from others.

However, it was something he was working on, the solicitor said.

Judge O'Connor noted the boy did not like being told what to do, having had to fend for himself and due to a "chaotic past".

There had to be 100pc engagement with the services, he warned.

The judge commented that since entering a guilty plea in July the youth "moves between regretting his actions and stating the victim is lying; you cannot have both".

Irish Independent

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