A father-of-three who claimed to be a talent agent and sexually assaulted a child in a hospital bathroom has received a partially suspended sentence.
Brendan Clifford (34) of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the sexual exploitation of a child at Tallaght Hospital, Tallaght, on February 23, 2015. He also pleaded guilty to sexual assault of another child at the same location on an unknown date in 2015.
Sergeant Gary Farrell told Fionnuala O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that the victims, who are siblings, were aged nine and 10 at the time of the offences.
Sgt Farrell said the victims’ mother saw an advertisement online for what purported to be a talent agency looking for children to appear in films. The mother exchanged emails with someone who purported to be named Ciara Murphy who requested personal information about her children.
After sending on the information, the victims’ mother received a call from a man claiming his name was David White and he was an agent. “David” told the victim’s mother that he was making a film about children growing up in Ireland.
The mother and her two children began to meet with “David” and during these meetings the children would practice lines and take part in catwalk modelling. During one of the meetings “David” said that the children had problems in their tendons and would need treatment.
“Ciara Murphy” sent the victim’s mother an email asking for permission for the children to be treated by having cream rubbed on their legs and the victims’ mother gave her consent.
The nine-year-old boy began attending Tallaght Hospital with “David” on several occasions and had cream rubbed on his legs. The 10-year-old girl also attended Tallaght Hospital with “David”, but said she did not want to go back after an incident on February 23, 2015.
Her mother tried to pursued her to go back as she thought the treatment was necessary.“David” said he would get the child tickets for Justin Bieber if she went to the hospital again, but the child refused.
The victims’ mother became suspicious after “Ciara Murphy” sent an email which said her daughter’s underwear would need to be removed during the treatment. She contacted the talent agency named in the advertisement and discovered they did not have an agent named David White.
The boy told gardaí that on one of the occasions in the hospital, “David” brought him into the wheelchair accessible bathroom and told him to pull down his trousers and underwear. He then rubbed cream on the child’s legs, bum and penis.
The girl told gardaí that “David” had rubbed cream on her legs and stomach on two separate days in the hospital bathroom. She said that on the third day he asked her to remove her underwear, but she refused and left the bathroom.
Upon his arrested, Clifford accepted that he advertised himself as a talent agent and had used the name David White. He initially denied ever meeting the two children, but subsequently pleaded guilty to the offences.
Clifford has no previous convictions. He is married and has three children.
James Dwyer SC, defending, said his client suffers from a number of ailments including diabetes, depression and a lack of vision in one eye.
In a letter written by Clifford read aloud by Mr Dwyer, he said he wished to express his sorrow for his “disgusting” crimes. He said he was not looking for forgiveness as nothing could take back the hurt he caused and that he had no explanation other than making “a grave error in judgement”.
Judge Martin Nolan said that the court hears many cases and this case was on “the more curious end of the scale”. He said Clifford’s behaviour was difficult to understand and could be described as “perverse”.
Judge Nolan said the mitigating factors in the case were Clifford’s guilty plea, his co-operation, his insight into his misbehaviour, his remorse and his physical difficulties. He said the accused’s behaviour was “very devious” and it was difficult to know if he would re-offend in the future.
He sentenced Clifford to five years imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months of the sentence on strict conditions including that he follow all directions of the Probation Supervision for 18 months post release.