‘It was a sweet shop to them,’ says victim of scout leader
A former scout leader lured a 12-year-old boy into his home on the pretence of teaching him first aid before indecently assaulting him.
James ‘Jim’ Leddy Snr (55) is the one of the first people to be convicted since over 300 victims were identified in the Scouting Ireland sex abuse scandal.
The paedophile was found guilty of indecently assaulting a young scout who he lured into his home and abused several times in 1981.
Today, his brave victim Colm Bracken speaks out about the abuse he suffered at the hands of James Leddy Snr and is also urging other victims of abuse to come forward.
Leddy, who was a member of the Ardlea scouts in Artane but now lives in Blanchardstown, will be sentenced next month for indecent assault following a trial at Dublin Circuit Court in December.
Mr Bracken told Independent.ie how he was first targeted after Leddy promised to teach him first aid- and how he attempted to take his own life three decades later because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of the scout leader.
“I would have went into the scouts in ’81, that’s when this all happened. Jim Leddy was an APL (assistant patrol leader). He would have been over been over a load of lads.
“I would have lived on the same street as him, maybe 40 yards away from my parents house,” he said.
“I was out playing football during the Summer, doing what you do as kids, and he called me over to the house and said ‘Do you want to know how to do first aid’ and I said ‘Yeah no problem’.
“I don’t want to get into too much detail; it started with him opening my trousers and I was lying across his lap in the back room.
“It was my first sexual experience.
“It lasted 15 minutes all told from start to finish and on the way out I was told not to tell anybody. ‘If you tell anybody I’ll have to tell your parents you’re smoking’ he told me.
“I didn’t think too much wrong with it at that stage, you carried on, you’re a kid so you went back playing.”
James Leddy Snr would go on to indecently assault Colm Bracken on two more occasions, including an oral sex assault on the then 12-year-old in the front room of his home.
It took away Colm’s childhood from him, forcing him to stay away from the place he had grown up in.
“I took myself out of the area and hung around an area up the road. I would go to school homework dinner and then away. I took myself away from the area I grew up, away from my friends.
“The worst thing was, I didn’t see my sister or younger brothers grow up.”
Colm attempted to bottle up what had happened, and said he kept his mind off it with work and later his young family over the following years.
However, in 2008, years of bottling up the abuse took its toll and his mental health deteriorated.
“Late 2008 was the final straw, I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to kill myself, commit suicide, I felt like I let everyone down; My wife, my kids.
“Anyone I knew, I was bottling it up.
“I ended up in Vincent’s on suicide watch. I was there for about four or five weeks as a day patient.”
Colm’s wife Lisa described one of the occasion where she visited him in St Vincent’s Hospital where he was being held after attempting to take his own life.
“It was very difficult for me to walk into Vincent’s Hospital in what looked like a cell. I was looking at my husband strapped to his bed in a psychiatric hospital having been brought in with a rucksack with a rope, a knife and other paraphernalia to kill himself.
“I was driving the streets during the night looking for him, he was declared a missing person.
“I think there needs to be recognition of the catastrophic affect that all of this has caused in his life. When people look at someone who has been abused, they look at it as something that happened but think its gone, that it’s only a memory. It isn’t, it has a ripple effect,” she said.
Over 30 years had passed since the abuse, and no formal complaint had been made to gardai. However, having learnt that his abuser was working around children as a school bus driver, Colm decided to contact gardai about the James Leddy Snr’s crimes.
“I found out where he was and what he was doing. He was involved with children, and I said ‘That’s it, he has to be stopped,’” Colm said.
Gardai were contacted and following a formal complaint and an investigation by detectives based at Coolock garda station, James Leddy Snr was charged.
However, despite suffering unimaginable pain from his abuser, Colm Bracken asked gardai to wait until after Christmas when he learnt that gardai were planning to arrest him just before Christmas.
“It was coming up to Christmas time and I asked the guards not to arrest him until after. Why should his family suffer over what he has done. I do feel sorry for his family, they’re not to blame. I’m not doing this to hurt them, it’s to get it out there to other victims who have been abused.
“Then the whole court process starts and you’re constantly blaming yourself. ‘Why me’ is a big thing, and asking if you’re the only one.
“It’s a matter of acceptance, of people believing in you. The sixth year, you get your justice and you sort of feel when 12 people come back with a plea of guilty. I’m actually believed, these people who don’t know me believe me.
“You feel vindicated, you feel like you can take on the world. The reason I want to talk, to do the interview is to get more victims to come forward.
“I won’t lie, it’s not easy for anybody, but you’ll get there in the end. I waved my right to anonymity straight away, I’ve opened the door, so for anyone out their, go ahead and jump on the wave because the more the likes of him are put away, the better.”
Another notorious paedophile within the scouts was jailed in 2015 after being convicted of indecently assaulting Colm Bracken- and is currently before the courts over separate incidents.
Looking back at his time in the scouts, Colm describes it as a “sweet shop”, with hundreds of vulnerable children available for those who should be protecting them to prey on.
“I always described the scouts, it was like a sweet shop and they were coming in to buy. It was like a candy store. That’s the way I’d describe it, it was like a big sweet shop to them.
“There’s a lot of guilt, your own guilty, and that rips into you and even thought you’ve done nothing wrong, the one question I want him to answer is ‘Why me?’.
“It’s all about ‘Why me’, it’s the big question. What did I do to deserve what you did to me.
“You want to know did he scope me out, was I a long term target, what did you get on me. For me it was smoking, his whole thing was he’d tell my parents I was smoking; back then that was voodoo, smoking.
“They take away the innocence of what life should have been for you. That’s all taken away from you. On the sexual end of things, that was all taken away,” he says.
A review into the widespread abuse carried out by Scouting Ireland members has so far identified over 300 victims and more than 200 suspected abusers.
However, Colm Bracken fears the number may be far higher, and is continuing to urge victims who have not yet spoken out to have their voices heard.
“I’m delighted It’s out there, it’s never too late, you’re never too late to come forward. Anybody who has been abused, come forward.”