NewsCrime Desk

Paedo choir-master released despite owing victim €200,000

Michael Byrne
Michael Byrne

Paedo choir-master Michael Byrne is back on the streets after walking free from Arbour Hill Prison.

Our exclusive pictures capture the 79-year-old child predator’s release today after serving just three years for grooming and abusing teenage neighbour Cormac Walsh between 1975 and 1978.

 

Sickeningly we can reveal how, despite being ordered to pay €200,000 to his victim in 2015, the former school-teacher, choir master and Arlow Silver Band leader was released from prison this week without ever handing over a penny.

During his 2014 trial before Wicklow Circuit Court, Byrne was described as a “one-time pillar of the community who was guilty of revolting and disgusting crimes.”

The soon-to-be octogenarian pervert, from Arklow in Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty to four counts of indecently assaulting Cormac Walsh between 1975 and 1978, when the victim was a teenager.

He was sentenced to eight years imprisonment with the final four suspended by Judge Michael O’Shea at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court on April 10, 2014.

Byrne, a long time friend of the Walsh family, first met his victim when he was just nine years old and began grooming him almost immediately.

The first time the pair met Cormac was given two chocolate bars by his abuser.

Byrne continued to groom him for years before sexually abusing him on several camping trips from the age of 11.

It began with calculated grooming behaviour and progressed getting gradually more intrusive and offensive.

First there was touching or groping and that developed into circumstances where the accused masturbated the boy.

This happened on a regular and frequent basis over the period of years.

It involved not just abuse of power and authority but deceit, the court heard.

The boy had had a medical condition for which he was being treated and the accused exploited this for his nefarious ends by saying he needed to get sperm samples to check the boy’s condition.

Byrne pursued this policy over a long period of time giving credence to the deceit by actually collecting samples and it got worse.

He told the boy that the quality of the sample would be better if the boy was more aroused.

In sentencing Byrne, Judge Michael O’Shea said the abuse was cold, calculated, premeditated and he could only describe Byrne’s conduct as that of a predator, Mr Justice Ryan said.

Judge O’Shea had said it was ‘revolting, horrific, disgusting, embarrassing, and humiliating’, Mr Justice Ryan said.

The court rejected arguments submitted by Byrne’s counsel, Patrick Gageby SC, that this wasn’t ‘the worst of crimes’ and therefore should have started at a point lower than two years for each count.

As a musician, French teacher, cleric, and career guidance counsellor Byrne had unfettered access to innocent children over the course of his lifetime.

The child molester was first convicted of gross indecency dating back to 1971.

Yet incredibly he managed to work in well-known boys’ secondary schools in south Dublin and Wicklow, and spent 17 years in the Abbey Community College (VEC) in Wicklow.

The brazen pervert even set up a counselling service for victims of sex abuse at one point.

It was while delivering a Victim Impact Statement on behalf of an abused child buggered by a 61-year-old farmer in 2001 that he was rumbled by former Arklow Detective Garda Jim McCawl.

McCawl, who has since retired, sensationally exposed Byrne’s criminal conviction in court in 2001 – reminding him of his own gross indecency conviction while he was delivering the statement.

 

Incredibly, Byrne was employed as a career guidance teacher by Wicklow VEC even after it became aware in 1995 of his criminal conviction.

As previously revealed by the Sunday World, the board chose not to advise parents of Byrne’s history after taking “legal advice.”

He also even managed to adopt a young male Romanian amputee for a summer in the 1990s.

Several VEC students have made complaints that he assaulted them in his office on separate occasions and he was finally forced to retire.

In 2015, awarding Cormac Walsh the sum of €200,000 in aggravated damages in the High Court, Mr Justice Michael White’s judgment created a new civil wrong covering the long term control and manipulation exercised by an abuser over their victim.

An emotional Cormac Walsh, from Arklow, Co Wicklow said he hoped the court’s decision on his case against Michael Byrne, a former teacher and brass band leader, from Templerainey, Arklow, would help other victims of abuse.

The recognition by the courts of a “crime so devious and underhand” will be very significant for other victims, he said at the time.

“It explains to victims that it was not their fault, that the child is never at fault,” he added