A RETIRED council worker who sexually abused a young boy over a 15 month period was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
Michael O’Brien, aged 74, of High Meadows, Gouldavoher, Dooradoyle pleaded guilty to eight sample charges relating to offences which happened at an address in Limerick city on dates during 2006 and 2007.
During a sentencing hearing, Garda Cormac Flanagan said the victim, who was aged ten when the abuse first started, made a statement of complaint to gardai in February 2012 – a number of weeks after he informed members of the family about the abuse.
He told gardai that when he first met the defendant by chance he offered him some money to help weed his garden.
The relationship developed from there with the boy regularly visiting O’Brien’s home for over a year.
Limerick Circuit Court was told the abuse started a number of weeks after the boy first met the defendant.
The separated-father of two forced the boy to have sex with him and to perform sexual acts on him up to “two or three times a week”.
The victim, the court heard, was afraid to tell his parents and told gardai at times he looked on his abuser as a father figure.
When questioned, the defendant initially denied sexually assaulting the boy telling gardai that “I did let him have his way with me” adding that he “didn’t see any bad in it”.
Andrew Sexton SC, said his client now accepts his actions were wrong and that he regrets what happened.
In mitigation, he said the pensioner had not gone out to seek a victim and that there was never any violence.
Referring to the break-up of his client’s marriage, he said the “whole confluence of events was most unfortunate”.
Imposing sentence, Judge Tom O’Donnell described the actions of the defendant as “cold, cunning and calculated”.
He noted the victim had been assured by O’Brien that their relationship was “special” and that there was nothing untoward about what was happening.
He said the young man was the victim of an “appalling breach of trust at the hands of a mature man”.
The judge said O’Brien’s admissions, guilty plea and and his contrite apology were mitigating factors.
He noted that the pensioner suffers from medical difficulties and that any prison sentence would be difficult for him.
However, he said the tender age of the victim and the disparity in age between the pair were aggravating factors in the case.
“This was the systematic grooming of a very young child,” he said adding that the offences were committed for the sole purpose of O’Brien’s sexual gratification.
The judge said the court was required to impose a proper and proportionate sentence given all the circumstances of the case and he said in his view a custodial sentence had to be imposed.
He sentenced O’Brien to four years’ imprisonment, suspending the final year.
There was no reaction from the defendant, whose name has been placed on the register of sexual offenders indefinitely.