Tuesday 22 January 2019

Former church worker is finally behind bars after 40 years of abuse

Patrick O’Brien abused boys aged between seven and 16 years
Patrick O’Brien abused boys aged between seven and 16 years

A former lay worker with the Church of Ireland has been jailed for 13 years for the rape and molestation of 14 young boys over the course of 40 years.

Patrick O'Brien (76) pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 48 sample counts of indecent assault and three of sexual assault of the boys.

O'Brien, of Knocklyon Road, Templeogue, Dublin, received a one-year suspended sentence in 1989 for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy, leaving him free to continue a litany of horror crimes for another 24 years.

The offending took place between 1974 and 2013 at numerous locations, including Kildare, Westmeath, and at St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, where he worked as a volunteer.

He would abuse his victims in various locations, including:

  • Bringing boys to his yacht.
  • Taking them for driving lessons or to the office where he worked.
  • He abused one boy once a week in a car wash after they were hidden from view when the vehicle was covered in foam.
  • He organised games of hide and seek to be alone with a victim.
  • He abused a boy in a kitchen while the child's parents and grandmother were in the sitting room.
  • Another boy was abused in the electrical room of St Patrick's Cathedral while people were in the body of the church.

O'Brien would often drop the boys home and have dinner or drinks with their parents, having abused their child hours earlier. O'Brien regularly came up to the victims' bedroom to "kiss them goodnight and tuck them in" but would then sexually abuse them, usually touching their penis and then performing oral sex on them.

One victim, who was raped a number of times by O'Brien, was first raped by him on the child's parents' bed. He blocked the door with a chair before stripping the child and himself.

This victim also told gardai that O'Brien would put him and his younger brother to bed when their parents were downstairs.

He would read his brother a story while that child was lying in a top bunk and at the same time would force the victim, who was lying on the bottom bunk, to perform oral sex on him. When he had finished reading the story, O'Brien would sit on the boy's bed and "French kiss him".

Judge Melanie Greally said the ages of the victims ranged from seven to 16 years.

She noted one victim was abused on a single occasion, with the longest duration of abuse being seven years. Judge Greally said every one of the victims had suffered consequences as a result of the abuse in specific and individual ways.


In sentencing O'Brien, the judge said she was taking into account aggravating factors including the gravity of the sexual misconduct, the length of time involved, the ages of the victims, the nature of his grooming techniques and the breach of trust involved.

The judge added that in mitigation she was taking into account the guilty plea, O'Brien's co-operation with the investigation, his health issues and expression of remorse.

The judge imposed consecutive sentences totalling 13 years, which she backdated to July.

Speaking outside court, Detective Superintendent Declan Daly said he would like to commend the bravery and resilience of all the victims.

"I hope their bravery will send a message to all other victims who may come forward in historical cases and report their complaints to An Garda Siochana," he said.

The court heard O'Brien was first arrested in March 2014. A search was carried out of his home, during which photographs of some of the victims in normal social situations were discovered. In April 2014, he made a voluntary statement in which he agreed with the statements of his victims. He said he had been abused himself and told gardai: "I would like to say how sorry I am for causing these lads such distress and apologise to them all absolutely."

Sean Guerin, defending, said his client had written a letter in which he said he wanted to apologise "unreservedly" for the breach of trust and the suffering the victims.

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