Central Criminal Court
A 56-year-old man who remained in a job as a caretaker in a Donegal Irish language summer school after he was convicted of sexual assault has been sentenced to 18 years on additional sexual assault of four boys.
Michael Ferry, with an address at Carrickboyle, Gweedore, Co Donegal, who worked as a caretaker at Ard Scoil Mhuire, Gweedore, pleaded guilty to 38 sample charges of sexual assault against four young boys at the Central Criminal Court last week (Monday 11 July). The offences took place between 1991 and 2003.
The victims and their families were present in the court to hear the sentence passed.
Sentencing Ferry, Justice Paul Carney added him to the sex offenders register for the second time, imposing an 18 year custodial sentence with last four years suspended, and ordering that he be placed under supervision for ten years after his release.
Ferry was also ordered to stay away from his victims “in perpetuity.”
“A disturbing feature of this case was that the accused remained as caretaker of the school while the offences pre-date and postdate a conviction of sexual assault in the same school in respect of which he was placed on the register for five years,” the judge noted.
“This must have been known to local gardai and presumably to the school authorities.”
His position of trust in the community allowed Ferry to continue grooming further victims, Judge Carney said.
Ferry was convicted on 13 December 2002 and sentenced to a six month suspended sentence and a €500 fine, but he was not named at the time.
His victim at the time did not want Ferry named because of the effect it could have on Ferry’s ailing mother.
Passing sentence, Judge Carney said he had to take into account the inherent gravity of the offences, the disparity in age between Ferry and his victims, the vulnerability of the victims as they entered their teenage years, the position of trust he held in the community, his systematic grooming of the boys, the level of premeditation shown by his grooming, the multiplicity of victims and offences, the length of time the offences covered and the fact he continued to offend after being placed on the sex offenders register, and the effect of the crimes on his victims.
“I carried this cross on my back for 12 years unable to forgive myself for what this demon did to me” one of Ferry’s victims said in a victim impact statement. “He took my soul, my faith, my heart.”
“The only word I know to describe him is a demon.”
Victim impact statements were previously read into the court record last week when Ferry pleaded guilty. He could not be named at the time for legal reasons.
One victim described a recurring nightmare with his abuser “holding his hand over my mouth and telling me to be quiet in a darkened room.” In another dream, he was trying to escape from the school and his tormentor.
Garda Denise Casserly told the court the offences first came to light when one of the man’s victim’s reported them to a local doctor in May 2010. The victim was forwarded to a HSE social worker, and also reported the assaults to the Guards.
The assaults began when he was 12 years old.
Patricia McLaughlin SC said the Director of Public Prosecutions viewed the offences as being “in the most serious category” dues to the age of the victims and systematic grooming.
The court was told the accused had studied for the priesthood in Maynooth from 1974 to 1979, did not graduate after “a disagreeable event took place in Maynooth which caused him to leave”.
“I realise I done wrong. I just got into a darkness, a spiral of pure evil, hard to explain” Ferry told detectives when he was arrested.
Three other victims also came forward to make complaints, the court was told.
The boys ranged in age from ten to 13 when the sexual assaults began, and were repeatedly assaulted and raped over several years, in one case until the victim completed his Leaving certificate.
In victim impact statements, the four said they had suffered from alcohol and drug addiction, depression, had tried to commit suicide, found difficulty in forming relationships with women, and had been admitted to psychiatric hospital.
In each of the cases, the victims outlined how they were given money, alcohol and sweets by the offender, who also showed them pornographic films.
Ferry also pleased guilty to charges of creating child pornography, as he photographed his victims in the nude.
One of the victims recounted how he was given whiskey to drink, and Ferry then masturbated him, telling him to “imagine if it was a girl doing it”. He was assaulted weekly until he was 15 years old.
Another told how he was anally raped at Halloween when he was 14 years old. The abuse continued until he did his Leaving certificate. He suffered from depression, was suicidal, and had been treated at an addiction and counselling centre.
A third victim has related how on one occasion he awoke after being plied with alcohol, and his back passage was sore and bleeding. He said the assaults had “ruined his life”, and made him “suicidal and ashamed.”
The fourth victim told how he was first assaulted when he was 10 years old. Ferry initially had pinned him to the floor and tickling him, and this progressed to putting his hand down his trousers. When he was 14 or 15, he had escaped from Ferry by climbing trough a toilet window.
When Ferry was arrested in June 2010, he made admissions in custody relating to the victims, and said he showed them pornographic films to “get them in the mood”.