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Sunday 17 December 2017

16,000 messages in Humphries' 2-year grooming campaign

  • Pervert journalist sent pictures to child of 14

  • Abused her after pursuing her for two years

Tom Humphries bombarded a girl with text messages before going on to sexually abuse her in his flat. Photo: Collins
Tom Humphries bombarded a girl with text messages before going on to sexually abuse her in his flat. Photo: Collins

Former Irish Times journalist Tom Humphries exchanged 16,000 text messages with a teenage girl he has admitted defiling and sexually exploiting.

These included picture messages of his penis, a court was told yesterday.

His sentencing hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court also heard that the once-prominent writer collected the then 16-year-old from her school and took her to his flat for sex after grooming her for two years.

Humphries (54) had daily contact with the teenager and the plethora of texts were exchanged between them in the four months before his activities were uncovered.

His behaviour was only discovered after one of his daughters found explicit messages on an old phone of Humphries' in March 2011.

The court was told the victim, who Humphries identified through his involvement in sports teams, became depressed and suicidal after her ordeal. The former journalist previously admitted two charges of engaging in a sexual act with a girl under 17 on December 5, 2010 and February 19, 2011.

He has also admitted four counts of sexually exploiting the same child by inviting her to engage or participate in sexually explicit, indecent or obscene acts in 2010 and 2011.

Judge Karen O'Connor adjourned sentencing to October 24 so she can consider medical reports.

Innocuous

Humphries, who had been free on bail, spent last night under observation at Cloverhill Prison after requesting he be taken into custody.

He was once regarded as one of Ireland's finest sports writers and has written a number of best-selling books on sport.

Prosecutor Shane Costelloe said Humphries began texting the girl in December 2008 when she was 14. He said she did not know how he got her number, but she assumed it was through her GAA club.

Initially the text messages were relatively innocuous and included discussions about camogie, which she played at the time. However, within months he began sending her sexually explicit pictures.

She became upset when she got the photos, deleted them and texted him not to do it again.

Mr Costelloe said this seemed to "reset" the relationship and their messages reverted for some months to being just about camogie, her life and school. However, there was a change in the content of the texts in the summer of 2010 when they became more sexual.

Humphries asked her about her sexual contact with other people and initiated texting conversations to do with her sexual experiences. After she turned 16, the mess- ages became more personal and turned to whether they should meet. The girl did not take this seriously but soon realised Humphries did.

A plan was made for them to meet on December 5, 2010. He collected her in his car from outside her school that Sunday, when she was supposed to be somewhere else.

He took her to his flat where he undressed her down to her underclothes and performed a sex act on her. She then performed a sex act on him, the court heard.

There were other instances of defilement where the circumstances were broadly similar. Humphries, who did not speak during the hearing, wrote a letter of apology to his victim, but the court heard she did not want to read it.

Suicide

In a victim impact statement read out on her behalf, she said the sexual encounters with him "made me physically, emotionally and mentally ill".

She thanked Humphries' family for alerting gardai after they discovered what was going on. "I will be forever grateful to them for saving me from this situation," she said.

Humphries' lawyer, Hugh Hartnett, said his client was truly remorseful, had attempted suicide twice and was at risk of a further attempt. He asked the judge to take into account the effect of his client's wrongdoing on his family and the fact he is unlikely to work again.

The barrister submitted a medical report and a number of testimonials, including letters from the chief sports writer of the Sunday Times and a well-known sportsman about Humphries' journalism career and involvement with the GAA.

In a statement, the Irish Times said Humphries had not written for it since early 2011, when it was advised of serious allegations against him.

"He was suspended from employment on March 31, 2014, when he was formally charged," the statement said. His employment was terminated with immediate effect on March 8, 2017, after he had pleaded guilty.

The company added that the disclosure that Humphries was the subject of serious allegations and of a criminal investigation was a source of shock and distress to his colleagues.

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