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Convicted paedophile to be sentenced for sexually assaulting one-year-old baby

O’Brien is currently serving a twelve year sentence imposed in 2008 for the sexual abuse of two children who were under the age of six, the court heard
O’Brien is currently serving a twelve year sentence imposed in 2008 for the sexual abuse of two children who were under the age of six, the court heard

A convicted paedophile will be sentenced later for sexually assaulting a one-year-old baby who had been left in his care while her parents went out drinking.

Michael O’Brien (45) committed the abuse against a backdrop of severe neglect and physical abuse by the child’s parents. The court heard there was no clean clothes, electricity or food in the house at the time, although food was kept in the freezer for when social workers came for inspections.

O’Brien is currently serving a twelve year sentence imposed in 2008 for the sexual abuse of two children who were under the age of six. In 1993 he was jailed for four years for the aggravated sexual assault of a 60-year-old woman during a burglary of her home.

O’Brien with a last address in County Limerick pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexually assaulting the baby at her home in the west of Ireland between April 2005 and October 2006. He was convicted by a jury earlier this year.

During a sentencing hearing today, a local garda told prosecuting counsel Anne Rowland BL that when the baby was born her parents brought her home, handed her to her ten year old sister and told her that she had to look after her.

The older sibling told gardaí that on many occasions she returned home to find the baby in a car seat in front of the television while the parents were out drinking.

In 2005 the parents returned to the house drunk with O’Brien. From then on O’Brien regularly stayed in the house and babysat the children.

The older sister told the trial that she was afraid of O’Brien and would lock her and her siblings in a room when he was there.

One day she came home and found O’Brien sexually assaulting the baby in the sitting room. The baby was naked at the time. The ten-year-old grabbed a poker and hit O’Brien, telling him to get away from her sister.

When the children’s mother returned home she beat the ten-year-old with the poker as punishment for hitting O’Brien. The child was too afraid to tell her mother about the sexual abuse.

The children were later taken into care where the older sister told gardaí about the sexual assault while detailing the neglect they faced in the house.

A foster parent for the children told the trial that most of them were not toilet trained and they did not know how to use cutlery or a toothbrush.

An examination of O’Brien’s victim showed physical evidence of the sexual abuse and O’Brien was arrested and interviewed. He admitted babysitting the children sometimes but denied sexual abuse.

Defence counsel Geraldine Fitzpatrick SC said her client now accepts the verdict of the jury. She said he has being doing a course in prison to help him rehabilitate.

Counsel said O’Brien left school early and worked steadily as a butcher and farm labourer. She said he has no contact with most of his family since his previous conviction.

Ms Fitzpatrick asked Judge Sarah Berkeley to consider “the light at the end of the tunnel principle” and allow O’Brien a chance to rehabilitate himself for his eventual release.

She also asked the judge to consider the social stigma and publicity associated with the sexual abuse cases but conceded this was a lesser mitigating factor for someone with O’Brien’s convictions.

Judge Berkeley ordered a prison report and a psychological assessment for O’Brien and adjourned finalisation of sentence until June 6, next.

By Conor Gallagher