Tuesday 16 January 2018

Student accused schoolgirl 'to cover for stealing'

Lydia O'Hara arriving at court yesterday
Lydia O'Hara arriving at court yesterday

Tim Healy

THE girl who falsely accused former student Lydia O'Hara of extortion did it as cover for stealing from her family over a number of months, the High Court heard.

In a statement to gardai, the then 14-year-old second year student falsely claimed she paid around €1,000 over six months to school bullies with the stolen money and withdrawals from her credit union.

The evidence was given on the sixth day of Ms O'Hara's action against her former school, Scoil Chriost Ri in Portlaoise, and against the Garda Commissioner for reckless and intentional infliction of emotional harm after she was falsely accused in March 2004.

The court also heard yesterday from consultant psychiatrist Patricia Casey who disputed evidence from two other psychiatrists that Ms O'Hara was suffering from mild post traumatic stress as a result of the incident.

Garda Anthony Ryan, Portlaoise juvenile liaison officer, told the court the girl who made up the accusation, referred to as "Ms A", was repeatedly asked while she was giving her statement if she was telling the truth.

She was adamant she was, he said.

Ms A said she'd been bullied since the previous October and it "all started when I gave Lydia O'Hara the lend of a Euro for the tuck shop" and she (Lydia) said she would give it back.

When Ms A asked for it back, she alleged Lydia said "did you think I was serious" and demanded more money.

The demands continued for a number of months and she got the money from her father's pockets and from her mother and sister's purses before eventually taking it out of her credit union account. She claimed the handover of money was mostly in the school bike shed.

The court heard that then Garda John Healy, now a sergeant, provided Ms A with a marked €20 note for the bike shed handover but it was instead placed under Ms O'Hara's schoolbag by Ms A.

Asked by Martin Giblin SC, for Ms O'Hara, if he would not have immediately suspected Ms A might be a "skillful liar" because she had been stealing from her family for so many months, Garda Ryan said he was satisfied at that point that she was telling the truth.

Garda Fiona McGrath said when she and Sgt Healy visited Ms A's home and the girl admitted the lie, she was asked why she picked on Lydia and replied she had "no reason" and there were other "domestic issues".

The case continues before a judge and jury.

Irish Independent

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