February 2021

Paedophile scout leader wants gardaí to find the rest of his ‘many victims’ whose names he doesn’t remember

A former scout leader who has been jailed for abusing 10 boys has called for gardaí to find the rest of his “many victims” so that he can “put an end to all of this”.

David O’Brien (69) of Benburb Street, Dublin, has been sentenced twice at the Circuit Criminal Court, first in 2015 for sexually abusing six boys and then in 2018 for indecent assault on another four. All the offences occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s.

At the Court of Appeal a lawyer acting for O’Brien today revealed that the former scout leader is currently before the Circuit Court in relation to another offence.

He said his client doesn’t remember the names of his “many victims” and is therefore unable to make use of a provision in the Criminal Justice Act that allows a person to admit guilt to offences not before the court to have them taken into account in sentencing.

Counsel added that it is virtually impossible for O’Brien to do anything but it is within the power of gardaí to find the members of the scouting unit to “hopefully put an end to all of this”.

At a previous hearing it emerged that O’Brien told gardaí in 2016 that he abused 30 to 40 boys during his time as a scout leader.

In reply Mr Justice John Edwards said it was not a matter for the three-judge Court of Appeal.

The court had earlier heard an appeal by O’Brien against the severity of the eight-year sentence with 16 months suspended imposed on him in 2018.

Padraig Dwyer SC for O’Brien said that the sentencing judge, Judge Karen O’Connor, failed to take into account that O’Brien had already served a sentence for offences that were all committed around the same time. The two sentences together totalled 14 years with three years suspended.

Mr Dwyer submitted that 11 years in prison is not a typical sentence for the type of institutional sexual offending his client had pleaded guilty to.

He also pointed out that his client had come forward to gardaí as far back as 1997 and admitted to abusing boys in his care but for reasons unknown no prosecution was ever brought.

He further submitted that his client is not accused of any offence since he left the scouts in the early 1980s.

Mr Justice Edwards, presiding, with Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, dismissed the appeal in an oral judgment.

Mr Justice Edwards said the fact there were 10 victims with the aggravating factor of a serious breach of trust by a person in authority “could easily have justified a cumulative net sentence of 11 years”.

He said the sentencing judge was fully alive to the fact O’Brien had already served a sentence and took that into account.

Dismissing the appeal, he said the court found no error in principle and added: “On the contrary, our impression is that the sentence was constructed conscientiously and with great care.”

At the sentence hearing in 2018 Judge O’Connor said the offending was aggravated by the breach of trustand by three of the victims being warned not to tell anyone.

She commented that the victims were “deprived the innocence of childhood”.

She said the case was mitigated by O’Brien’s guilty plea, his remorse and the fact he co-operated with gardaí.

Judge O’Connor sentenced O’Brien to two years imprisonment on a single count of indecent assault relating to each of the four complainants.

She ordered that these sentences would run consecutively to each other for an effective operating sentence of eight years imprisonment.

She suspended the final 18 months of this eight years sentence on condition that O’Brien come under the supervision of the Probation Service for 12 months post release.

In his victim impact statement, which he read out in court, the first victim said that the abuse changed his life forever.

The man said that he came from a working class family and his father gave him money to buy a uniform, rucksack and sleeping bag for his first camping trip.

He said that he never went back to the scouts after being assaulted on the trip and his father went “ballistic” due to the apparent waste of money. He did not tell his father about the abuse until shortly before his death.

After he finished giving his statement, Judge O’Connor told the man that it was very courageous of him to read out his statement in court and that his father would have been proud of him.

The second victim, in a written statement, said he suffered trust issues as a result of what happened to him. He said he knew what had happened to him was not right but could not speak up about it.

The third victim declined to make a victim impact statement.

The fourth victim said he developed an acid reflux due to stress, which required multiple surgeries. He attributed the condition to abuse he suffered on the scouting trip.

November 2019

‘He will die in prison’ – scout leader is jailed for sex abuse

A man who was molested by a former scout leader when he was just seven years old has said he expects his abuser to die in prison.

David O’Brien (67), of Benburb Street in Dublin, was yesterday jailed for six-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting four boys on scouting trips between 1972 and 1981.

The paedophile has already served a prison term for indecently assaulting six boys, and has admitted to gardaí that he abused between 30 and 40 children.

His youngest victim, Robert Keogh, who waived his right to anonymity, told the Irish Independent how O’Brien would tell the children ghost stories to terrify them before exploiting that fear and abusing them.

“It was all very insidious, he would bring you out and pick you out and alienate you, he’d tell you ghost stories, ‘The Blue Lady’ was one. He would terrify you in the forest in the dark; the noise of the animals, the whole thing was just terrifying.

“Even to this day, when I bring my own children out for a walk the noise of the wind and the trees in the park always reminds me of him,” Mr Keogh said.

“I’m just glad it’s put to bed now, it’s dragged on for so long.

“It was very hard to come forward because it’s bothered me all of my life.

“He was hoping to get the longest sentence possible so he can die in the Midlands Prison, he’s being fed and looked after.

“If I get sick I’ve to pay for a doctor, he gets free medical aid. He’s 67 now, he looks a lot older. He’ll die in prison,” he added.

Mr Keogh was just seven years old when he was molested by O’Brien while on his first camping trip in Co Wicklow in the early 1970s.

Yesterday, Judge Karen O’Connor sentenced O’Brien to a total of eight years’ imprisonment, with the final 18 months suspended.

He had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight counts of indecent assault relating to four boys on dates between January 1, 1972, and December 31, 1981.

The court heard how one of the victims reported the abuse in 1997 and O’Brien was interviewed.

The paedophile told gardaí that, while he did not recall the alleged abuse, he was not denying it.

O’Brien also told gardaí that at that time he had been “molesting” a number of young boys in the scouts and the molestations had been going on for 10 years. He said he left one scout group when a parent confronted him, but a friend got him into another group where he continued to molest boys.

A file was submitted to the DPP and a direction was given not to prosecute the case, but the file was resubmitted when more victims came forward.

When O’Brien was re-interviewed about the allegations in 2016, he admitted to abusing between 30 and 40 boys.

After sentencing O’Brien, Judge Karen O’Connor commended the investigative work of Detective Garda Neil Plunkett, and told the victims: “None of this is your fault.”