A Buncrana man has been found guilty of indecently assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the peninsula over 30 years ago.
The man is in his 60s and appeared at a special sitting of Buncrana District Court on Tuesday. He cannot be named for legal reasons.
A second charge of indecent assault, against a 15-year-old boy in Buncrana in the late 1970s, was dismissed.
The court heard how in the early 1980s, the then 10-year-old knew the man as a “family friend.”
Giving evidence, the complainant, now in his 40s, told how the accused would regularly take him on “runs” in his car.
On the night in question, a family member of the young boy and the accused’s mother had gone to bingo. The young boy went too, which he said was a “normal” occurrance.
He then went for a “run” with the man, telling the court: “I didn’t think anything of it.”
He added that the accused would normally drive into town, but drove down to a nearby beach, where he exposed himself to the boy.
He said:“Before I knew it, he had my trousers opened and was playing with me. I knew it wasn’t right. I started crying and told him to stop and he did stop.”
He added the accused “put his hand in places he shouldn’t have put it.”
The man added told the court how the older man was “coming over on top” of him.
Buncrana Garda Inspector David Murphy asked the man if the accused had done anything else to him, adding he appreciated that recounting the evidence was “difficult.”
The man then told the court the accused had digitally penetrated him.
He said he never told anyone about the incident afterwards. He said he told his friend many years afterwards, when both were having a conversation about the accused.
He said: “I said: “That’s a dirty wee b***ger” He asked how I knew that and I told him what he’d done to me. He said that he’d done it to him too.”
The court was told that when that man made a statement about the accused to Gardai, they approached the complainant.
Barrister Damien Crawford put it to the man that he did not know the date which the offence occurred, as he said in his statement to Gardai he was “10, maybe 11 or 12 years old.” He also put it to him that over three decades was a “very long time not to come forward” or tell anyone about what had happened.
He replied:“I remember what he done. That’s enough. I didn’t write dates down. That’s some family friend that does that to you.”
He added: “I didn’t write down dates. When you’re the age I was, terrified to open your mouth. 30 odd years ago in Donegal, if you said that you would have got split. You weren’t allowed to speak for yourself. It’s different now. I was born and reared in this town. I know how it works.”
He told the court the incident was “not something” he “boasts” about, stating he has “lived with it for 30 years and it’s not something I’m proud of.”
He said that following the incident, he never got into a car again with the accused.
He added that when Gardai came to him, he “wasn’t going to lie.”
The court was told that when the man was 17, he met the accused on the street. He approached him and told him if he’s “was ever near kids, he’d be sorry.”
The man said he had to “live” his life following the incident.
“I couldn’t let one person ruin my life,” he said.
He added the incident was “not something you could forget about it.”
The court was told the man later told his partner and some family members.
The court then heard from the investigating Grda, who said that when the charge was put to the accused, he “denied it consistently.”
Mr Crawford put it to the court there was insufficient “material” to warrant a conviction. He said there had been a delay in reporting the incident and that the man, then a young boy, had “said nothing.”
Mr Crawford said family members were astute at picking up when children were “out of sorts.”
Buncrana Garda Inspector David Murphy disagreed, stating the evidence was “more specific.”
“It’s a specific night and a very specific allegation,” he said, adding that the man had become “emotional” when giving evidence,
“He had to go that extra step to give graphic evidence of such a heinous crime,” he said.
Inspector Murphy also referred to the fact that the man told how Donegal 30 years ago was a different place, where anyone making such an allegation would be slapped.
He said this would be a “deterrent” to reporting such a crime.
Judge Paul Kelly said there were no inconsistencies in the case and ruled the accused had a case to meet.
The court then heard the accused had a previous conviction for the sexual assault of a male in 2010. He received a six-month prison sentence, suspended for a year.
Mr Crawford told he court his client suffers from a number of health issues and highlighted how the Director of Public Prosecutions took the decision for the case to be heard in the district and not the circuit court.
Mr Crawford said that given the accused’s age and the “vintage” of the charge, a custodial sentence would have a “devastating effect.”
Judge Kelly asked for a probation and welfare report to be prepared and adjoured the case until November.