Sunday 25 August 2019

Young man (20) sexually abused by neighbour as a boy awarded €200k by High Court

The High Court, Dublin
The High Court, Dublin

Tim Healy

A 20-YEAR-old man sexually abused as a child by a neighbour - who threatened to slit the throats of his parents if he told - has been awarded €200,000 by the High Court.

Cian McCarthy was just seven years of age when he was first abused by his neighbour Pat O’Brien who lived opposite the family home in Kilmallock, Co Limerick.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna said on a number of occasions the abuse was accompanied by threats against the boy's parents and siblings if he told what had happened. The child believed these threats and this “added to the sexual abuse an element of terror which must have impacted horribly on a child of tender years,” the judge said.

Mr McCarthy, of Ballygibba, Kilmallock, Co Limerick had sued his neighbour Pat O'Brien (67), of Tankardstown, Kilmallock, Co Limerick for assault and trespass to the person on different dates between 2004 and 2006.

Liability was admitted in the case and the matter was before the court for assessment of damages only.

O'Brien pleaded guilty in 2008 at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to six counts of sexual assault on Mr McCarthy and was sentenced to three years imprisonment with the last 18 months suspended provided he stay away from Kilmallock for 15 years.

The Court of Appeal later increased the sentence to five years with two years suspended providing O'Brien give a similar undertaking.

Mr McCarthy's counsel, Michael McGrath, said O'Brien did not accept the undertaking and served his sentence.  As a result he was able to go back and to live opposite the McCarthy's when his sentence was finished.

The McCarthy's had to build a high wall so their son did not have to see him, counsel said.

In evidence, Mr McCarthy said O'Brien would come up behind him and would kiss and fondle him. He said O'Brien did it in his own house and also once in the MCarthy home when his mother had gone out to the shop.

"He said he would kill my mother and father if I opened my mouth.

"He said he would slit their throats.

"I was so young I believed everything that came out of his mouth," he said.

Eventually, he was able to tell another relative who told his parents and the gardai were called in.

Making the award, Mr Justice Hanna said the abuse has continued to affect Mr McCarthy to this day.

When O'Brien returned home to Kilmallock at the end of his sentence, the judge said he was within his rights.

The judge said while he could not fault O'Brien in law for returning to the area, he could take in to account the impact it had on Mr McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy's mother Mary, the judge said had complained "rightly so"  as her son's childhood had been taken away by these assaults.

While Mr McCarthy was from a loving family, the abuse must have interfered greatly with his development, he added.

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