Face to face with childhood abuser
Groomed: Bus driver on sick leave
A VICTIM of childhood sexual abuse finally faced down her abuser in court - during civil proceedings aimed at ensuring he pays out on an award of €300,000 in damages to her.
Brave Sinead Lay has yet to receive a penny from Dublin Bus driver Fergus Delaney despite the High Court issuing the order for damages against him in May 2019.
Delaney was found by the High Court to have both groomed and sexually assaulted Sinead from the age of 14 while he was employed as a school bus driver.
This week, more than 15 months after the order was made, Sinead took her legal fight to Carlow District Court where she sought an instalment order against Delaney.
Such an order would result in Delaney being ordered to make regular weekly or monthly payments to Sinead until such time as the full damages are paid.
Delaney, who did not represent himself during the High Court proceedings, and who had failed to engage with Sinead's legal team at any stage up until the proceedings on Thursday last, arrived at the courthouse a short time before the proceedings commenced.
Wearing a grey polo shirt and a face mask and standing in the back of the court room, he shook his head from side to side as details of the original order were relayed to the court.
Addressing the court, barrister Deirdre O'Donohoe, instructed by David Macmunn of Newbridge Law Centre, said she was seeking the instalment application on foot of a judgement from Judge Cross in the High Court of May 2019 for €300,000.
She said the award arose from a personal injury matter where he awarded damages for grooming, digital rape, oral rape and penile rape.
Ms O'Donovan continued: "We have spoken with Mr Delaney.
"This is the first time he has engaged in these proceedings and he has provided, just this morning, a brief statement of means which we now need to examine."
Asked whether he had a solicitor, Delaney responded: "I'm looking for legal aid."
The court heard, following this request, that Delaney would be entitled to seek civil legal aid at a law centre - although there was no guarantee he would be granted it.
Ms O'Donovan also informed the court that Delaney, who was pictured by the Sunday World driving a Dublin Bus out of the Harristown bus depot in March, also informed Sinead's legal team that "he is allegedly on social welfare through sick leave which has just commenced very recently."
Adjourning the matter to allow Delaney time to seek civil legal aid at a law centre, the presiding judge warned him that "ultimately, the defendant will have to come to court to be cross examined on his statement of means."
The judge also warned him that during the period of adjournment Sinead's solicitor's may now write to him seeking records relating to his social welfare payments and bank statements.
Adjourning the matter to December 3, the judge cautioned him: "You now have three months in which to do so [seek legal representation]and three months in which to answer any questions that arise."
Sinead pursued a civil case against Delaney after failures by investigating gardai to refer her complaints onwards to Tusla in 2011.
Notwithstanding the garda handling of Sinead's complaint, the High Court last year accepted "as true" allegations Delaney had both groomed and sexually assaulted her as a young teenager.
Sinead, the court heard, was just 14 in September 2000 when she was "lured into a close relationship" with Delaney, then in his late 30s, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said.
Sinead told the High Court she was severely traumatised and suffered lifelong consequences as a result of alleged sexual assaults when she was a schoolgirl.
She said Delaney, a former neighbour of hers when she lived in Tallaght, Dublin, had misused his position of authority to lure her into a close relationship.
She said that when she moved with her family to Co Kildare in September 2000, he began to text her and later sexually assaulted her on several occasions between November 2000 and August 2001.
Making the original award, Mr Justice Cross said he fully accepted everything that Sinead said in evidence to the court as true.
"None of this is or was her own fault," he said. "She was not of an age in any way to consent to the attention given or what was done to her. The only person responsible is the defendant."
Mr Justice Cross said Delaney, who was an uncle of a friend of Ms Lay's, had engaged in a grooming exercise in relation to the then 14-year-old.
After she moved to Kildare, he texted her and she met him and he kissed and fondled her, the judge said. The judge said she was lonely in school and Delaney put pressure on her to return to her Dublin school and said he would collect her.
The judge said that in August 2001, Delaney collected the girl from school and drove to an isolated spot in the Curragh where a sexual assault took place.
Judge Cross said her mother became concerned about who was texting her daughter.
Sinead subsequently told her mother what had happened and they went to the gardai.
Speaking this week, Sinead said she recognised, even on the day the award was made, that making Delaney pay for what he did to her would be a long, drawn-out affair.
"I attended court alone today, not only because I didn't want any support, but because I want to stand in solidarity with anyone going through the same thing, who feel they are alone. I did it for them."