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10 Aug 2022

Decorated Tipperary soldier jailed for sexually abusing three boys 40 years ago

BREAKING: Decorated Tipperary soldier jailed for sexually abusing three boys 40 years ago

A decorated soldier who sexually abused three neighbourhood boys up to 40 years ago and used his position of trust to his advantage when he targeted them has been jailed for two years.

Michael McGuinness (61), with an address in Main Street, Borrisokane, Tipperary, served for 21 years as a driver in the army, and was “trusted” in his local area where he sexually abused three young neighbours over an 11-year period, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court at a previous sentence hearing last November.

The boys were aged between seven and 13 when the abuse occurred, while McGuinness was aged in his twenties. The three complainants waived their right to anonymity, meaning McGuinness can be named.

The boys were aged between seven and 13 when the abuse occurred, while McGuinness was aged in his twenties. The three complainants waived their right to anonymity, meaning McGuinness can be named.

One of his victims told the sentence hearing in November that McGuinness disguised himself as a friend. “In reality he was a predator”.

“He was seen as trusted in the area because he was in the army,” the man said in his victim impact statement.

Another man told the court he had a lifelong distrust of uniforms and those in positions of authority after he was abused by McGuinness. He said McGuinness “put the fear of God in me”. “He destroyed all my trust of people, particularly people in uniform”.

Another complainant said McGuinness deprived him of achieving his full potential, after he turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with the abuse. “Your actions not only destroyed my life, but destroyed the lives of those around me,” he told McGuinness in his victim impact statement, which was read out in court by counsel.

The court heard that after he was honourably discharged from the army in 2000, McGuinness worked as a driver for the Irish Wheelchair Association for a number of years. He was suspended when the abuse allegations came to light.

When interviewed by gardaí in 2019, McGuinness immediately admitted the abuse, describing what he had done in the past as his “dark dirty secret”. “It's haunted me all my life,” he told gardaí, adding: “It's not me. It doesn't define me.”

He said he had confessed everything to his wife and adult children, who continue to support him. He has no previous convictions.

The maximum sentence for each of the counts is two years, except for the final count which took place after a change in sentencing laws. That count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Sentencing McGuinness today/yesterday (Tuesday) Judge Melanie Greally said it was evident from the victim impact statements before the court that the impact of the set of offences “had been profoundly damaging and profoundly lasting” and the men were “very significantly influenced by this offence at such a young age”.

Judge Greally noted that a probation report before the court indicated that McGuinness was remorseful for his actions and has engaged with the relevant therapeutic interventions. The report concluded that McGuinness was at a low risk of re-offending.

Judge Greally said the abuse was humiliating and degrading and had “life changing” effects on McGuinness’s victims.

She acknowledged that McGuinness had been described as a good brother, father and grandfather and had served as a solider in the Irish Army for three tours of duty.

Judge Greally imposed consecutive sentences totalling three years. She suspended the final 12 months of the sentence on strict conditions and backdated the sentence to when McGuinness first went into custody last November.

Judge Greally thanked the injured parties for “your engagement in what was a difficult process”.

Detective Garda Bevin Meaney told Eoghan Cole BL, prosecuting, at the initial hearing last November, that McGuinness and his victims all lived in the Crumlin area of Dublin during the period in question.

The court heard McGuinness befriended the boys, two of whom were brothers, by offering to bring them on drives up to the Dublin Mountains or for walks with his dog.

He sexually abused the two brothers on a number of occasions, mostly by forcing them to masturbate him. The abuse took place in his car and in his home. On one occasion, McGuinness abused one of his victims in his parked car in the driveway in the middle of the day.

The two brothers only found out they had both been abused by McGuinness when they were adults, with the older brother saying he felt “just as guilty” as his abuser because he was unable to save his little brother from the same fate.

The abuse came to light when one of the complainants met McGuinness through work and reported him to gardaí.

Kathleen Leader SC, defending, said that when interviewed by gardaí, McGuinness accepted responsibility for what he had done. He told gardaí he wished to apologise “wholeheartedly” to his victims, the court heard.

Ms. Leader said McGuinness was decorated by the army and served a number of tours of duty with distinction, including in Lebanon and former Yugoslavia. He attempted to take his own life last year and has been undergoing counselling, the court heard.

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