A SCHOOLTEACHER made a young boy stand inside a makeshift ‘dock’ where he indecently assaulted him at the top of the classroom, a court has heard.
The evidence was heard this Wednesday at Limerick Circuit Court in the trial of a 73-year-old retired national schoolteacher, who has pleaded not guilty to 78 counts of indecently assaulting 13 young boys more than 30 years ago.
The offences are alleged to have occurred on various dates between September 1, 1978 and June 30, 1981.
In his evidence one of the alleged victims, who is now 46, recalled how he was ordered to stand inside a large cardboard box at the top of the classroom during “a mock trial” after he was caught by the defendant passing a note in class.
The witness told the court that the teacher asked the class what punishment he should receive and described how while standing behind him he pulled down his pants and underwear and touched his private parts.
He said the “makeshift dock” consisted of a cardboard box with two sides and a front and the back cut out.
The box, he said, was high enough at the front so the other pupils in the classroom could not see what his teacher was doing.
“I couldn’t react because I was terrified,” he told the court, this Wednesday.
“I got slapped with leather after he was finished with the ‘so called court case’,” he added.
Another victim told the jury the abuse occurred during a lull period in the class when the pupils were concentrating on other classwork.
He said the accused man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, stopped beside him and placed his hand down the front of his shirt continuing “as far down as he could reach”.
Earlier in the trial, another of the 13 men who alleges he was indecently assaulted at the school, described how his former teacher he would assault him “at least once, if not twice a day”.
The first of the alleged victims to give evidence in the trial said his former teacher had a “catchphrase” which he would use whilst indecently assaulting him.
“What’s that piece of jelly rising down there?” he would say, stated the victim, who is originally from Limerick city.
He told John O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that he didn’t know if the same phrase was said to other boys in the class.
“The first thing I can remember, and the most striking is that he would stick his hands down my pants and sexually assault me, every day, sometimes twice a day, week in week out, month after month,” he told the court.
The man said while he was in that classroom he would sit “frozen at his desk” in fear, and alleged that his teacher would “molest boys at random”.
“I remember specifically my first day, or first week, there was Irish on the board and he was walking down the aisle towards me. He started by rubbing my neck, and my face, and then stuck his hand inside my pants,” he said.
“He grabbed my penis and my testicles and would grope me. I remember on the first occasion I thought it was funny. I thought he was tickling me. Then I began to feel humiliated, ashamed and frightened,” he said.
The alleged victim said as he sat in the class he always hoped his teacher would approach someone else.
“The minute the classroom door opened, there was a knot in my stomach, fearing what was going to happen,” he said.
He said the alleged assaults stopped around the Easter holidays, and thankfully the did not continue when he moved to another teacher the following year.
Andrew Sexton SC, defending, put it to the complainant during cross-examination that he made his complaints to the gardai some 30 years after the alleged events.
The man responded byy saying this was correct, telling Mr Sexton that he came forward after he saw a headline in the Limerick Leader about an investigation surrounding a school teacher.
Being cross-examined about the exact dates of the alleged offences, he said he was unsure about exact dates.
“I’m very nervous. I don’t remember the dates, but I do remember what happened in that class. What happened to me happened. I sat there squirming as that creep walked around the class,” he retorted.
Mr Sexton put it to the witness that if these offences happened as many times as he claimed they did, someone else must have seen it.
“There’s no one who saw you being abused at all,” said Mr Sexton.
“These allegations are completely deniable. My client says nothing of the sort you allege happened.”
He added that as many as 11 of the alleged victims went to see the same solicitor and the same psychiatrist.
In his evidence, the second witness said his teacher would “feel my genitals and start making funny noises,” at least once or twice a week.
He claimed on one occasion the defendant followed him to the bathroom and put his hands down his pants while he was at the sink.
“I didn’t know what to do. I kind of pushed him away, and ran back into class.”
Being cross-examined by the defence, he said he didn’t want to tell anyone about it until he was contacted by the gardai.
The alleged victim admitted that he has had “trouble with the gardai” in the past and has served prison sentences, mainly for assault matters.
He said he blames his problems in life for what happened in the school he attended, adding that he started sniffing glue at a young age and was later thrown out of secondary school.
Another alleged victim told the jury that the teacher began to fondle his genital area when he walked around the class to check their homework, and said this would happen at least once a day.
He claimed it also happened while he was called up to the black-board and alleged that he fondled him while he had his back to the class.
He claimed that other pupils couldn’t see this as the height of the teacher’s desk obscured their view. He said this would go on for five to six minutes.
He also claimed that he was indecently assaulted in the boiler-room in the school, after he was selected to do yard duty.
“He would follow you in and fondle you again in there. He would block you [from leaving]. Even if you tried to get out you couldn’t. He would undo your fly and put his hands inside,” he said.
The alleged victim broke down in tears on numerous occasions while giving evidence in the witness box, as he was asked by Mr O’Sullivan to give as much detail of the alleged events as possible.
He said the incidents in the boiler-room would happen every couple of weeks, and said he “just froze” when it happened.
He claimed he also saw his teacher indecently assaulting others, and named out several other potential victims.
“Others were called to the desk as well,” he added.
Mr Sexton put it to him that when he was interviewed by the gardai in 2010 that he didn’t state that his teacher had fondled him inside his pants, but rather had fondled him outside his clothing.
The complainant replied: “If you had blocked something out for 30-odd years of your life, and was then asked to explain it, you’d get flashbacks too.”
Mr Sexton said what he had told the judge and jury was “an expansion” of what he had previously told the gardai.
The alleged victim said he did not believe he had done anything wrong by expanding further.
Again, Mr Sexton said this alleged victim was presenting a “phenomenally large amount of incidents”, amounting to hundreds over the course of a school year.
The identity of the school, the teacher and the year of the class cannot be identified for legal reasons.
In addition to civilian witnesses, a number of gardai from the Limerick division and elsewhere are expected to give evidence during the trial.
At the outset, the jury was told by Mr O’Sullivan, the trial would be long and that it could last until the end of this month.
It is continuing at Limerick Circuit Court before a jury and Judge John Hannon.