Isabel Hayes and Fiona Ferguson
A childminder who repeatedly sexually assaulted a seven-year-old boy under his care has been jailed for five years.
Martin Begley (55) was found guilty by a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury of nine counts of sexual assault and 12 counts of invitation of sexual touching to a child in two locations in Dublin between December 2019 and April 2020. The verdicts came after a six-day trial in June this year.
Begley, of Larkfield Grove, Kimmage, Dublin, rejects the verdicts of the jury and intends to appeal the convictions, defence counsel told the court. The parents of the child, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, wished for Begley to be named, the court heard.
Judge Elma Sheahan said the offences had been “a most egregious breach of trust”. She said Begley had held a position of trust and authority in the life of the boy and his family who employed and depended on him. She said immense trauma had been caused to the child and his family.
She noted the family's concerns that there would be further impact on the child in the future when he has a greater understanding of what has occurred.
She noted Begley, who was a carer for his late mother, did not accept the verdict but respected it.
She highlighted aggravating factors such as the seriousness of the offending, the breach of trust, the age disparity, the significant effect of the abuse on the child and the vulnerability of the child given his age and the location and circumstances of the offending.
She took into account in mitigation his previous good character, care for his mother and the impact of a custodial sentence on a person of his age who had not been in prison before, that he was now on the sex offenders register. She also noted his cooperation and that he did not prolong the trial.
She imposed concurrent sentences totalling five years. She acknowledged the need to incentivise rehabilitation but said she could find no evidential basis on which to suspend any of the sentence where the verdict of the jury was not accepted. She ordered two years post-release supervision.
Vincent Heneghan SC, prosecuting, told the sentence hearing that Begley was employed by the parents after they placed an advertisement on an Irish childminding website. His was the only application they received.
Begley told the parents he had garda vetting, although he never showed them evidence of this, and he supplied them with a number of references. He started working with the family in December 2019, minding the seven-year-old boy and his younger sibling in their home.
When the country went into Covid lockdown in March 2020, the arrangements changed and Begley started minding the children in his own house instead, while the parents worked from home.
In April 2020, the boy confided in his mother about a video Begley had shown him which involved a boy being spanked with a belt. The boy's parents were extremely concerned about this and immediately terminated Begley's employment.
The following month, the boy's mother discovered he was engaging in sexualised behaviour, and he told her that Begley had shown him how to do it.
The boy's parents contacted gardaí and the boy was interviewed by specialist gardaí shortly afterwards. In the interview, which was played to the jury, the boy outlined how Begley had sexually abused him.
Victim impact statements
In victim impact statements read out in court by counsel, the boy's parents described how they have suffered anxiety and depression since discovering the abuse their child suffered at the hands of Begley.
“The fact that [my son] had his innocence destroyed by a man seeking his own sexual gratification will stay with me for the rest of my life,” the boy's father said, adding he feels “regret and remorse for employing this man”.
Garnet Orange SC, defending, said his client “respects” the verdicts of the jury but does not accept them and intends to appeal. He asked Judge Sheahan to take into account a number of mitigating factors, including Begley's prior good character and his full cooperation with gardaí.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help.
In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.