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Former Christian Brother returned to jail on abuse charges

CourtsBy Sunday World
Edward Bryan
Edward Bryan

A former Christian Brother jailed for indecently assaulting three boys at a secondary school in Cork in the 1980s and 90s has been returned to jail following an appeal.

Edward Bryan (61), with an address at Martinvilla, Athboy Road, Trim, Co Meath, had pleaded not guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to 10 counts of indecently assaulting four boys at the North Monastery secondary school in Cork on dates between September 1 1984 and June 30 1990.

He was found guilty by a jury on seven counts relating to three boys and sentenced to five years imprisonment by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin on March 1 2013.

Bryan had been granted bail by the Court of Criminal Appeal in December 2013 to challenge his conviction and sentence.

His conviction appeal was heard in May of this year. One count on which he was convicted was quashed, the balance were upheld and his appeal dismissed.

During his sentence appeal, Bryan successfully relied on a Court of Appeal judgment from earlier this year which held that the maximum sentence for indecently assaulting a male in the said time period was two years imprisonment and not ten as had been previously believed.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has appealed that decision, known as 'Maher', to the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the DPP maintained that the option of imposing consecutive sentences meant sentencing parameters remained quite broad.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards sentenced Bryan to three consecutive 10 month sentences or two-and-a-half years in prison overall.

Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal today, Mr Justice Birmingham said Bryan was a school teacher in Cork during the offending period and he was also engaged in extra curricular activity.

Basketball provided the backdrop to the abuse that occured. In general there was inapprpriate touching, fondling, groping and on occasions actual masturbation, he said.

These were serious matters involving the sexual abuse of children by a teacher, Mr Justice Birmingham said. The prolonged period over which the abuse had occured, the number of victims and age difference were aggravating factors.

On the other side of the coin, Bryan had no previous convictions and was otherwise of good character, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

The trial heard evidence from his siblings that Bryan had played a positive role in the community and family including caring for his elderly mother whem she was in decline.

A guilty plea had not been forthcoming, the judge said, which meant the considerable mitigation that would have been available to Bryan was not a factor in this case.

The court was told that Bryan is prepared to take up any available courses for sex offenders, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

He said the court's task of sentencing an offender, who had otherwise been of good character and played a positive role in society, was not an easy one. It required the balancing of many conflicting factors.

Balance was achieved, the judge said, by imposing an overall sentence on Bryan of two-and-a-half years in prison,

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, imposed three 10 month consecutive sentences on Bryan.

Wearing a navy suit and tie, he was lead away through the custody area of the courtroom and returned to prison.