Friday 6 December 2019

Victim gets €400,000 over abuse by dance teacher

Tim Healy

A WOMAN who was sexually abused as a child for seven years by her Irish dancing teacher was yesterday awarded €400,000 in damages against him.

The woman, now a schoolteacher in her 40s, asked the High Court that the 68-year-old man be named but Mr Justice Sean Ryan said he would hear submissions on this issue on Friday before making a decision.

Awarding her €250,000 in damages for past suffering and €150,000 in general damages into the future, Mr Justice Ryan said the defendant was a mature authority figure who exploited his access to a young girl for grossly immoral purposes while he subverted her emotional and moral senses.

The woman claimed he engaged in "grooming activities" from when she first started dancing at the age of six.

When the assaults began at 12 years of age, they increased in seriousness as she got older.

She said they occurred between 1982 and 1989 at the dance classes as well as when she was being driven home from classes by him.

On one occasion, he abused her when she was sleeping in his family home while there was another young girl in the bed with her.

The man denied all her allegations claiming they were made up to get back at him because she was in love with him and he had spurned a suggestion that he leave his wife and live with her.

He was charged with indecent assault and underwent two trials in which juries were unable to reach verdicts before the DPP decided not to pursue the matter any further and entered a "nolle prosequi" in the case. She then brought a High Court action for damages claiming he had taken her childhood from her.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Ryan, in a judgment in which initials were used for the parties and other identifying words were blacked out, said that, between 1992 and 1994, the woman received counselling and was persuaded by her counsellor and a social worker to make a complaint to the gardai.

She was concerned he might still be abusing other children.

The DPP decided not to prosecute and in the meantime, she left for America, where she got married to a man who was also an Irish dancing teacher, the judge said.

The gardai were still pursuing the matter and in 1997, on her return from the US, she made a second statement and the two criminal trials followed.


He had also brought High Court proceedings seeking to stop his prosecution after the first trial and these were eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court.

The judge said the proposition by the man that she had concocted the allegations to get back at him because he had spurned advances from her was wholly unconvincing and did not accord with logic or with her behaviour.

By contrast with the woman's account and evidence given by a number of witnesses for her, including two other women who accused him of indecent behaviour, the man's evidence was "inconsistent and unconvincing," the judge said.

There was a conflict between the evidence he gave to the High Court and answers he gave to questions from a garda investigating the matter. He failed to refute the weight of evidence showing him to be an abuser of children, the judge said.

Mr Justice Ryan also found that no issue arose over whether the Statute of Limitations 1957 applied because of the delay in bringing proceedings.

This was because, the judge said, he was satisfied she suffered from a serious psychological injury inflicted by the defendant, diagnosed as post traumatic stress, which blocked her ability and will to bring proceedings.

In a statement yesterday from Brian Gill, the woman's solicitor, he said she was completely vindicated by the judge's decision.

Irish Independent

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