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Teacher jailed for sexual abuse of boy in 1985

A teacher who was convicted of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Jacintha McSherry O’Connor with an address at The Mullins, Donegal town, denied indecently assaulting the boy while she was giving him grinds in 1985.

The Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has also been told that the 63-year-old does not accept the verdict.

McSherry O’Connor 24 at the time and worked as a student teacher at a Dublin secondary school.

She denied sexually assaulting the boy on two occasions in his home, where she had been giving him grinds, but a jury convicted her on two counts last month by a majority verdict, a verdict she does not accept.

The victim, who is now in his 50s, described McSherry O’Connor as like “a spectre hanging over me my whole life.” He said he became an introverted and rebellious teenager, “a shattered teenager”.

“I thought for a time I was in adult conversations, having sexual relations with an adult,” he said in his victim impact statement. “I was only a child and not able to handle it. Something was very wrong, its deeply and morally wrong.”

He also said that McSherry O’Connor “took my innocence away, groomed me”, and that he had “nightmares about her” and “tore up every photo of her.”

“It affected my relationships,” he said, “The truth was close to never coming out. I’m glad I spoke up and perhaps it will give other victims strength.”

McSherry O’Connor’s defence counsel described it as a “quite unusual” case with “significant publicity.” He said McSherry O’Connor lives in rural area, works as a teacher and has suffered significantly.

He also said that she had been the victim of quite a serious sexual assault when she was a young trainee teacher. She did not make a complaint to gardaí, but the perpetrator was a senior teacher who has since been convicted of another sexual assault.

McSherry O’Connor had set up a language school in Donegal which is now closed and lost her job with a school in London following her conviction.

Judge Elma Sheehan described the offences as a breach and abuse of trust and took into account the seriousness of the offences, the age disparity and the effect of the offending on the victim which took place in his home.

She also noted McSherry O’Connor’s previous good character, her co-operation with the investigation, her long career as teacher and external examiner and the fact that she continues to enjoy the support of her husband.

The judge also said McSherry O’Connor cared for her elderly mother for years and the sentence would also impact on her. She has also lost her ability to earn a living in her career and lost her language school business.

She sentenced McSherry O’Connor to three years in prison on each count with the final six months suspended.

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