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Coleman Legal settle High Court sexual abuse case against Scouting Ireland
Coleman Legal LLP
June 11, 2024
A High Court case against Scouting Ireland and a convicted former scout leader for sexual abuse in the 80s settled. The victim, haunted by the abuse, experiences lasting psychological and physical effects.

High Court Settles Sexual Abuse Case Involving Scouting Ireland

A High Court case against Scouting Ireland and a former scout leader convicted of sexual abuse has been settled. The victim, who was only 14 years old at the time of the abuse, is still haunted by the events today, aged in his 50s.

The assault occurred in the 80s on a scout camping trip. The victim alleges the psychological and physical struggles triggered by his experience still affect him today. Despite a refusal to admit liability, the claim was settled outside of court after two days of trial.

The abuser, David O’Brien, has been the subject of multiple abuse allegations and is currently in prison, serving sentences handed down for the abuse of 11 young boys in the 70s and 80s. However, in 2016, when asked by Garda, O’Brien estimated the number of children he had abused while in his role as scout leader was closer to 30 or 40.

Describing the attack to the court, the plaintiff said O’Brien told him he had to sleep away from the rest of the group in his tent. He later woke up to discover O’Brien molesting him after unzipping his sleeping bag and pulling down his pyjama bottoms.

Unable to process what was happening, the victim was initially frozen. O’Brien eventually redressed and exited the tent when the boy tried to move away from him. The victim was left with extreme pain in his genitalia in the following days.

Later on in the camping trip, whilst apologising to the victim, O’Brien warned him not to share what had happened with anyone else. The victim kept the attack a secret for years, feeling shame and fearing the stigma he might face. The victim began to avoid being around other people and quit his regular extra-curricular pastimes.

He eventually confided in his wife, who he described as his “rock” throughout years of “psychological hell”. He subsequently told the Gardaí in 2016, deciding that he wanted justice for what had happened to him. When questioned about the 17-year delay in launching his claim, the plaintiff explained that he was in denial about the abuse and did not have the psychological capability to process the situation.

The victims psychiatric symptoms persist to this day, including suicidal ideation, panic attacks and nightmares. He also suffers from a number of physical illnesses which have required serious operations as well as lifelong medication.

The claimant insists the abuse majorly contributed to his ill-health and denied the respondent’s allegations that he was simply “unlucky” in life, reminding them that other stressful life events didn’t leave him with continuing nightmares.

Addressing his claim against Scouting Ireland in particular, the claimant said the organisation had left numerous children in the sole care of a “predator”, providing him with the ideal circumstances to attack. He alleges this was a complete failure by Scouting Ireland to protect him and other victims.

Counsel for the plaintiff, Richard Lyons, as instructed by Coleman Legal, informed the court of the settlement despite Scouting Ireland never making any admission of negligence or responsibility for the abuse. The respondents also argued that the claim was statute barred as the victim had “inexcusably delayed” in launching proceedings.

Notwithstanding the highly troubling subject-matter and conflicting arguments, the court praised the legal teams of both parties for their sensitive handling of the case and wished the victim and his family the best going forward.

If you would like to, confidentially, speak to an experienced solicitor in relation to the Scouting Ireland abuse, any of the details referred to in this article please contact us as soon as you can.

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Clodagh Magennis

Clodagh Magennis

Head of Client Services

F: 1800-844-104
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”At Coleman Legal, excellence in customer care is paramount. We aim to meet both prospective and existing client’s needs professionally, engaging, and friendly with a clear objective to give quality legal advice and reach a positive outcome.”