May 2016

Music teacher indecently assaulted nine-year-old child in his home

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A music teacher jailed for indecently assaulting a pupil in his home 25 years earlier has lost an appeal against conviction.

Breffni O’Rourke (67), who was living in Ferrybank, Waterford at the time of his trial had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to indecently assaulting the then nine-year-old girl in his Stamullen home in June 1987.

He was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to two years imprisonment with the final 12 months suspended by Judge Desmond Hogan on July 30, 2012.

The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against conviction today on a number of grounds.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said O’Rourke was single at the time and resided alone in a cottage. He was employed in credit control in a public company but also gave music lessons in his spare time.

At some point in 1985, the injured party began music lessons with O’Rourke. The lessons subsequently moved to O’Rourke’s home.

As part of his “modus operandi” it was alleged that he tickled the complainant as a preparatory act to the indecent assault.

There was evidence the complainant initially disclosed what had happened to a teacher in 1992 and this was referred to the ISPCC.

She subsequently attended a garda station in 2000 but apparently broke down and was unable to advance the complaint.

However, while attending third level college she met with a counsellor from the Rape Crisis Centre and in May 2003, a formal complaint was made.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the argument that the absence of notes from the 1992 meeting prejudiced O’Rourke was essentially a speculative one.

It was also weakened by the fact that the maker of the notes was available for cross examination, a right that was availed of at trial in a minimal way. The prejudice, as contended by O’Rourke’s barrister Colman Cody SC, was “minimal”, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the trial judge adequately dealt with the issue of delay and it was clear that the defence case was summarised fairly.

The court could not see how a number of other matters such as criticism of the gardai for not interviewing other parents or for investigating the colour of O’Rourke’s van, “could have advanced” his defence.

Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, dismissed the appeal.

July 2012

Ex-teacher jailed for sex attack 25 years ago

A FORMER music teacher has been sentenced to two years with one suspended for sexually assaulting a pupil at the teacher’s Co Meath home 25 years ago.

Breffni O’Rourke (64), Ardglass Estate, Ferrybank, Waterford, was convicted by a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury last February on one charge of indecent assault of the girl in June 1987.

He had pleaded not guilty to the offence.

The woman had stated in a victim impact report, heard at the sentence hearing last month, that O’Rourke’s “evil act” left her feeling “dirty and disgusting” and accused him of abusing his position of trust as her music teacher.

Judge Desmond Hogan said he was “deeply cognisant of the breach of trust that surrounds this case” but added that the law required that he take into account the “lapse of time” between when the offence occurred and when it was dealt with by the court.

“The injured party was very young at the time and to a certain extent he had control over her as her music teacher. The trust that had been imposed on him by her parents was broken,” the judge said.

He suspended the last 12 months of the term, taking into account O’Rourke’s previous good character.

Garda Sgt Karen Curley told Karen O’Connor, prosecuting, that the victim was aged nine or 10 at the time of the offence.

She said O’Rourke had taught traditional Irish music to the victim and her family.

The court was told that O’Rourke was aged 39 at the time of the offence, which took place at his home in Co Meath.

O’Rourke took the girl into his bedroom, pulled her across the bed and pulled her trousers down. He pressed himself against her and she felt she could not breathe, the court heard.

The accused was wearing his trousers throughout the incident, said Sgt Curley.

O’Rourke – a married man – initially denied any wrongdoing and denied the allegation of indecent assault but had since co-operated with gardaí.

In her victim impact statement, the woman said she found it difficult to put into words what she went through when she was a child.

She said she felt “alone and lonely” as she could not tell her family the details of what happened. Her relationships with her family had been eroded as a result of the incident, she said.

She said it had a “crippling effect” on her self-esteem and she felt “dirty and disgusting”.

“I spent long periods wishing I was dead. I contemplated suicide and attempted it once.”

She said she had had a passion for traditional music, but now felt “nothing but fear” when she heard it, because of what happened.

“He was in a position of trust and he abused that trust,” she said, adding that she has suffered panic attacks and nightmares as a result of O’Rourke’s actions.

She said when she was away she slept with a chair against a locked door as she always felt unsafe.

“This evil act was a few brief moments of self-gratification but it has destroyed my life. I was robbed of my childhood and I will never get that back,” she said.

Paul Greene SC, defending, pointed out that the court was dealing with a “single incident where Mr O’Rourke was clothed”.

He said his client had no previous convictions and co-operated with the investigation.

“There has been a lapse, almost to the day, of 25 years from June 1987 to today,” Mr Greene said.

He handed in a number of testimonials on behalf of his client and said there was a “cohort of people who want to speak up for him”.

“He is a religious man. He leads a simple enough life,” he said.

Mr Greene indicated that his client did not accept the jury’s verdict and intended to appeal his conviction.

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