By Jessica Magee
A former scout leader in Dublin has been sentenced to 16 months in prison for sexually abusing a young boy on an overnight scouting trip more than 40 years ago.
David O’Brien (70) with an address in Midlands Prison, Portlaoise, and formerly of Benburb St, Dublin, pleaded guilty to a single count of indecently assaulting the boy, who was aged nine or 10 at the time, on a date in 1981.
O’Brien has 22 previous convictions for indecent assault and voluntarily told gardaí he abused upwards of 40 children between 1975 and 1983.
He is currently serving a series of sentences for indecent assault, including an eight-year sentence and a six-year sentence, and is not due for release until February 2025 at the earliest.
O’Brien has been in custody since October 2015.
Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last week, Judge Melanie Greally praised the complainant’s “eloquent and moving” victim impact statement and expressed the hope that the conclusion of the case would bring him some comfort.
Judge Greally noted that the incident had had a profoundly harmful effect on the child, severely affecting his confidence, social ability and trust.
In the victim impact statement, the complainant, who did not wish to be named in order to protect his family, said the abuse had left him feeling “frozen and alone”.
“It altered my personality, I became introverted and my ability to trust crumbled,” he wrote.
However, he said he did not regard himself either “as a victim or as a survivor” and said it had been “such a positive experience seeing justice being served”.
The complainant encouraged any other people affected by any form of sexual abuse to come forward or to report it.
Garda Neill Plunkett told Aoife O’Leary BL, prosecuting, that the complainant had been in the cubs for about a year when he joined the troop for a weekend trip to the countryside.
The court heard that the boy was sleeping on the floor with the other cubs when he woke up very early and saw that O’Brien, the scout leader, was also awake.
O’Brien told him to come up to his camp bed where he began fondling the boy’s genitals and anus.
The complainant told gardaí that although he now wishes he had shouted out, at the time he was motionless, frozen and in shock.
He said he knew what was happening was wrong and that this was confirmed when O’Brien whispered into his ear “Don’t tell anyone.”
When the next scouting expedition was arranged, the boy told his family he wasn’t invited and left the cubs.
The court heard that the complainant told no-one apart from his wife about the abuse but decided to report the matter after hearing media reports investigating sexual abuse within Scouting Ireland.
Luigi Rea BL, defending, said O’Brien had walked into a garda station in an attempt to confess all his offences and had sought medication to subdue his sexual urges.
He described O’Brien as a “self-confessed paedophile” who, although he couldn’t identify all of the children he had abused, had pleaded guilty to every complaint.
Mr Rea said his client had been of good behaviour since 1985 and had become very depressed due to his bad conscience.
Judge Greally said the aggravating factors included the youth and innocence of the child and the breach of trust as O’Brien had been in a position of authority.
She said this was not an isolated incident but “part of a continuum of sexual misconduct perpetrated by the accused in his capacity as scout leader”.
Judge Greally said that unlike many sex offenders, O’Brien had been proactive in seeking out his victims with a view to facing up to his responsibilities.
She noted that O’Brien has recognised that he is a paedophile and a risk to children, has shown remorse and insight into the damage he has caused and has taken steps to prevent a recurrence of this type of offending.