Sunday 18 August 2019

Maeve Sheehan: 'Tom Humphries will be a free man in two weeks, but he will always remain a convicted paedophile'

The sportswriter jailed for abusing and sexually exploiting a child will walk free in a fortnight, writes Maeve Sheehan

Tom Humphries is said to have shunned therapy while serving his sentence for sexual exploitation. Picture: Collins
Tom Humphries is said to have shunned therapy while serving his sentence for sexual exploitation. Picture: Collins
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Tom Humphries will be released from prison next Saturday week having served a two-and-a-half-year sentence for defiling and sexually exploiting a child.

After the morning check-out drill at the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, he will collect his belongings and - if he doesn't have anyone to pick him up - a travel voucher to take him to his destination. The security gates will be opened and he will be left at the main road into town, having served his punishment. What then for the former sportswriter and convicted paedophile?

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Humphries' fall has been steep. The 56-year-old writer joined the Irish Times as a columnist in the early 1990s and quickly joined the frontline of the country's outstanding sportswriters. He wrote about the GAA and Roy Keane.

He also warned of the "cunning of paedophiles" and of sport as a "fine feeding ground for those few sick minds who prey on kids".

He was exposed as a "sick mind" by his daughter, who discovered messages he had sent to a teenage camogie player on a mobile phone he no longer used. It transpired that Humphries, a volunteer with a GAA club in north Dublin, sent thousands of text messages over two years to the vulnerable girl who suffered from an eating disorder. He groomed her from the age of 14 and defiled her at 16.

When confronted, Humphries was admitted to a psychiatric hospital because of fears he would take his own life. Detectives waited 18 months to speak to him. Even then, he did not confess his crimes. He admitted his guilt in March 2017, six years from the day he was found out.

His victim catalogued her shame, panic attacks, feeling physically sick and a loss of her childhood.

When he eventually pleaded guilty, Humphries begged the judge to send him straight to jail, he was so remorseful for his crimes.

Yet once inside, he is reported to have shunned therapy. He served his time at the medium-security Midlands Prison, which offers a programme to all sex offenders who meet the criteria. These include the prisoner acknowledging that an offence was committed, having "robustness of personality to withstand the challenge of the group" and "some literacy capacity". Humphries would have been the perfect candidate. By declining, he also denied himself the opportunity of getting enhanced remission on his sentence.

Humphries shared a landing with notorious killer Graham Dwyer, the architect who murdered Elaine O'Hara, and shared his cell with John Tighe, who murdered his baby son. His withering slights made headlines. The Irish Independent reported last year Humphries called a prisoner officer an "uneducated turnkey".

"I'd rather be an uneducated turnkey than an educated paedophile," the prisoner officer reportedly replied.

Humphries has been taking Spanish lessons, possibly his route to a new life on the outside.

He is unemployable in Ireland - possibly in any country. The friends and colleagues who showed him compassion have been burned in the backlash.

It's been reported that he plans on going to Spain, where he spent time before his trial.

Humphries will be free to live anywhere he wants. The only condition to which he must adhere is to give his address to gardai who will keep him on the sex offenders' register for life.

As one of the few sex offenders who was famous before he went to prison, his crimes ensure his name will stay on the public radar for years to come. But as the paedophile, not the writer.

Sunday Independent

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