A former sports coach accused of 266 counts of indecent and sexual assault four decades ago tied up boys in the woods to engage in sexual acts with them, his trial has heard.
The 72-year-old Waterford man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 266 counts of indecently and sexually assaulting five boys in locations in Waterford, Cork and Kilkenny on dates between 1978 and 1993.
In his opening speech to the jury, Paul Greene SC, prosecuting, said it would hear evidence that the five complainants in the case are now men in their 50s and 40s, two of whom are brothers.
Mr Greene said the complainants came into contact with the man when they were boys and teenagers in various ways, including as a sports coach, a family friend and, in one case, through a mutual interest in soccer.
Mr Greene said the jury would hear evidence that inappropriate sexual contact took place between the accused man and the boys, which included exposing his penis, fondling, masturbation, inviting him to touch them, handcuffing, urination and defecation.
The court heard the alleged assaults took place in various locations, including lay-bys, the beach, in the woods and at the accused man's home address.
Mr Greene told the jury that while there were specific allegations against the man, there were also sample counts on the indictment which covered an alleged “course of conduct” during the relevant period.
On Tuesday, the first complainant in the case, now 51, gave evidence. The accused man is facing 39 counts of indecent assault against him.
The complainant told the court that the accused man was a friend of his father's and a coach at a local sports club in Waterford. He said because the man was a family friend, he tried out for the team at around the age of 13 and the accused became his coach.
The complainant told the court that after weekend training, the coach would drive four boys to a local town for chips and some cans of beer. He said that on one occasion, when he was the last boy to be dropped home, the accused man offered him money to “drop the trousers” and expose his penis. He was 13 at the time, the court heard.
The complainant said at first he did not want to do it. “But he [the accused] would say: 'You're not the only one',” he told the court. “He would say: 'You're not special'. So you did it. You got your money and you had a few beers.”
The man told the court that this happened regularly, before it progressed to kissing the accused, and then to the man exposing his penis and the complainant masturbating him. He said that when he was older - around 15 - it progressed to oral sex.
The complainant said the accused man also tied him up in the woods using twine, or in a bedroom in his family home using handcuffs, before engaging in sexual acts. “He would tie me up so I would be helpless,” he told the court.
He told the court that on some occasions, another boy around the same age as him was also present with him and the accused in the woods. He said this boy was also tied up.
“He never forced me to do it,” the complainant told the court. When asked by prosecuting counsel why he engaged in the acts, the man said he did it for the money and gifts. “He said I wasn't the only one, he made it seem normal,” he said.
The complainant said the man bought him sporting paraphernalia, and “paid for a lot of stuff” when he was growing up, including a trip to the UK to see a soccer match. He said his interactions with the man ended when he was around 20, when he left the area for work.
When asked at what point he decided that what had happened to him was wrong, the complainant replied: “Over the years, as I got older.”
“I had my own family, and then the Catholic Church, the Christian Brothers being convicted of similar stuff that happened to me – that's when I realised,” he told the court.
John Peart SC, defending, put it to the complainant that there was a group of boys and that the accused man was “being used by you to make easy money”.
“I wouldn't say it was easy money and I wouldn't say we were using him,” the complainant replied. He said he never discussed how much money he would “get out of” the accused with any other boy.
Defence counsel asked if the complainant really did not know what he was doing was wrong. “It was a pattern,” the complainant said. “It was something I had been doing since I was 13. It was the norm for me. I kept doing it.”
Mr Peart suggested the complainant was trying to make out he was younger than he was at the time of the allegations.
“You have stretched the ages to turn yourself under the age of 15 for this trial because 15 [was] the age of consent,” defence counsel said. The complainant denied this. “It was from the age I went to secondary school to when I was 20,” he said.
The complainant said the reason he did not come forward about the alleged assaults earlier was to protect his father “whose best friend was abusing his kids”.
The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.