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Trial collapses of teacher charged with sexual exploitation

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The trial of a teacher charged with the sexual exploitation of a pupil over an eight-month period, came to an abrupt end last week when the girl admitted to a jury that it had never happened.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had denied eight charges of using a child for sexual exploitation, by inviting, inducing or coercing the child to engage in sexual, indecent or obscene acts, contrary to Section 3 (2) of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998, on dates between December, 2011, and July, 2012.

The alleged offences came to light when the girl went to her school principal, accompanied by her parents on June 27, 2012 and made a complaint about the teacher.

The girl, who is now aged 20, told a jury of six men and six women at Galway Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday that the man had taught her for the three-year junior cycle at and when she was in third year, then aged 15, he asked to ‘friend’ her on Facebook.

She agreed and after that she gave him her phone number.

The young woman sobbed as she told the trial the man regularly texted her and he would pick her up at weekends in his car.  She said he would give her bottles of Buckfast, cigarettes and phone credit.

She claimed that he brought her to isolated locations where he would perform a sexual act on himself or get her to do it for him.

Under cross-examination by Garnet Orange, SC, defending, the witness admitted she was drinking heavily and her parents were having difficulties controlling her when she was 15.

She admitted that while drunk on one occasion she went off in a van with a group of men she didn’t know and her friends were worried about her.

She also admitted, during cross-examination that she had asked the teacher to send her a friend request on Facebook and she regularly texted him to meet her for the purpose of getting alcohol, cigarettes or money from him.

Mr Orange said the witness had asked his client to send her a friend request and he foolishly did that.

“Some time after that you and he became a little bit closer.  He started confiding in you even though at the time he was in his late forties and you were 15.  That was odd but you learnt a lot about his family circumstances.

“He was a shy, quiet man who was going through a lot at the time and was drinking a lot. He told you that he needed help and you later described him to Gardai as a shy and nervous man and a bit ‘innocent’ and he befriended you,”  Mr Orange put to the witness.

During further cross-examination the witness said she could not remember exact dates or the frequency of the alleged incidents in the man’s car because she was drunk at the time.

Mr Orange put it to her that she was blackmailing his client.  He said his client and the girl had started kissing once but it had been a very brief incident.  He said that was all that happened between them and that the girl had begun to blackmail his client so that she could have a regular supply of alcohol, cigarettes, cash and phone credit.

“You contacted him whenever you needed alcohol or phone credit and he would just drive to meet you and hand out two bottles of Buckfast and then just drive away,” Mr Orange said.

“Yeah,” she replied.

The girl claimed she would go on some occasions with the accused in his car “as part of the transaction” and perform a sexual act on him.

“After this happened the first time, why did you get back into his car a second or third time?” Mr Orange asked.

“Because I was getting free drink,” she replied sobbing.

Mr Orange put it to her that her sister became concerned when she noticed she had more money than she should have had.

The witness agreed the money had come from the accused.

“The two of you started to kiss and it was all a very, very brief incident and that was the extent of if and I suggest that is the reason all of his happened.

“You had this thing over him,” Mr Orange said.

“I was only 15,” the woman sobbed.

“We all know that but perhaps, you were a lot more worldly-wise than a lot of 15-year-olds,” Mr Orange put to her.

The girl admitted she could have once said to the accused:  “If you get me drunk, I’ll ride you.”

Mr Orange conceded she might not have intended to do that, but that had been the expression she had used.

Mr Orange said his client started to refuse to get alcohol for the girl on the fifth occasion they met and he put it to the witness that she got “nasty” after that.

“You told him, ‘I’ll make you pay for what you did to me,’ didn’t you?” he said.

“I could have done,” the witness replied.

“The awfulness of what had happened became apparent to him; that you knew you had him ‘over a barrel’.  You had his neck in a noose and the only question was, when were you going to pull the lever?

“Even after the meeting with the school principal in June 2012, you were sending my client ‘call me’ text messages but he just wanted ‘out’.

He was buying you drink, cigarettes and phone credit and was so tormented he even gave you cash.

“You and your friends decided to have this eejit to come any weekend, at the drop of a hat, and give you drink and cigarettes and leave after a couple of minutes and this situation carried on until June 2012 to your benefit

“Then, your sister found out about it and it all kicked off from there and that was the end of ‘the gravy train’,” Mr Orange put to the witness.

“You were blackmailing him but the only thing that happened between you was that one kiss.”

Mr Orange said to the witness that his client did accept he had behaved “extremely badly” and that he should never have engaged in such contact with a pupil.

“But he saw you as a shoulder to cry on, not withstanding the age difference. He took you to be a friend and he never asked you to perform sexual acts,” Mr Orange said.

“I’m accepting it never happened,” the witness replied to the surprise of everyone present.

Judge Rory McCabe immediately sent the jury home for the night and on Thursday morning, Mr Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, said – in the absence of the jury – the DPP was withdrawing all eight charges against the accused and wished to enter a nolle prosequi in the matter.

Judge McCabe told the jurors the trial was not proceeding any further and he discharged them.

CITY TRIBUNE

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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