Sunday 15 December 2019

Christian Brother found guilty of molesting two children in 1980s

Saoirse McGarrigle

A former Christian Brother and retired teacher has been found guilty of sexually abusing two children in Wexford in the 1980s.

John Gibson (72), with an address in Dun Laoghaire, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two charges of indecent assault against a 12-year-old girl at a Christian Brother’s School in Co. Wexford, between May and September 1983.

He had also denied the indecent assault of a young boy on an unknown date between May 1985 and September 1985, when the complainant was 12 years old.

During a five-day trial the two complainants testified that Gibson had molested them while washing them after they had carried out some odd jobs around the school.

Yesterday (Monday) the jury returned majority guilty verdicts on all three charges after spending just over four hours deliberating.

Gibson appeared in court dressed in a grey suit, white shirt, blue tie and wearing gold rimmed glasses and showed no reaction when the verdict was delivered.

In her evidence to the court last week, the woman, now in her 40s, recalled climbing over a small wall to play on the school grounds with pals during the summer holidays. She said that Gibson was the only adult there.

‘He would bring out sweets and Cidona,’ she said, outlining the alleged offences in the summer of 1983 when she had just turned 12. She recalled that one day Gibson asked her to help paint a wall at the school.

‘He asked would I come back the next day. I went in to the school and Brother Gibson met me. I was alone. He had some clothes put out on a chair. He asked me would I change into them. He specified I take off my underwear so it didn’t get dirty.

‘When I finished painting, he said you can’t come home to your mother dirty. We’ll have to clean you. He came into the classroom with a basin and face cloth.’

She said he asked her to get undressed and then began washing her around her private parts.

‘I remember thinking there wasn’t very much paint there.’

She said the same thing happened the next day when she returned to the school to paint for a second day.

The woman initially approached the gardai in 2010, but subsequently decided not to make a formal complaint.

She said that after the Ferns Report was published she emailed the Diocesan Child Protection Officer in Ferns in the early 2000s.

‘I wrote an email, but got no response. I never went any further with it,’ she said.

She then went on to make email contact with One in Four, because she wanted to find out where Gibson was and if he was still alive.

She said: ‘I assumed he was dead. At 12 you think an adult is a lot older.’

Defence counsel, Philip Rahn, put it to the woman that Gibson ‘absolutely denies’ the allegations.

‘That’s fine. It’s burnt into my memory for 37 years,’ the woman replied.

The male complainant, in evidence, said that Gibson asked him to help with greasing the goalposts.

‘You got up on a ladder, and you had a tin of grease, to stop children climbing on the goal posts. I’d seen other people doing it - you got money for it.

The man said that after completing the task he was told to go have a shower.

‘He left me for a while. I stripped off. He appeared with a bottle of washing up liquid.

‘He told me I wouldn’t be able to wash myself properly, that he would have to wash me. At the time I froze, I knew what was happening was wrong.

‘I was powerless to stop it - I was only 12. I closed my eyes.

‘I can’t recall if I did say stop. In my heart and soul I wanted him to stop, I just closed my eyes.

‘He had this big dirty towel, and preceded to dry me - spending longer than necessary to dry.’

In cross-examination, Mr Rahn said: ‘You made the complaint after you read a headline in a local newspaper.’

The man replied: ‘Whilst he wasn’t named, it hit home with me, that’s the guy. I felt I needed to do something.

In response to Mr Rahn, the man said that he had been on the receiving end of ‘a few slaps, a few bad beatings’ from Gibson.

Mr Rahn asked: ‘Did he have a reputation for giving children slaps’

‘I saw quite a few people, yes.’

The man said that he previously reported the abuse to a spokesman for a Christian Brothers trust for alleged victims of abuse.

He said afterwards he received a letter from the trust.

‘Back in early 2001, 2002 - I got a letter of apology. I burned it, I was drawing a line in the sand.’

In interviews with gardaí John Gibson had repeatedly denied the offending and said he did not remember either of the complainants.

Judge Sheahan ordered him to sign on at Dun Laoghaire Garda Station once a week, surrender his passport and notify authorities of any change in his address.

This case was adjourned until March 19 for sentencing.

Wexford People

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