A former sports journalist has admitted grooming a teenage girl by sending her thousands of sexually explicit text messages before going on to meet her for sexual acts, writes Declan Brennan.
Tom Humphries (54) of Corr Castle, Sutton, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four counts of inviting a child to participate in a sexually explicit, obscene or indecent act between January 2010 and March 2011.
He also pleaded guilty to two counts of defilement of the child at a place in Dublin between December 5, 2010 and February 19, 2011.
The court heard that Humphries made contact with the girl through his volunteer work with junior GAA sports teams.
After months of grooming the girl through text messages of an increasingly sexual nature, Humphries met with the girl and brought her to his flat.
He stripped her and performed “oral sex” on her and got her to perform “oral sex” on him. That was in December 2010, when she was aged 16 and Humphries was aged 47.
There were repeated instances of these acts of defilement over the next 14 months.
Garda Jarlath Burke told the court that the offending came to light in March 2011, when Humphries’ daughter asked him to donate one of old mobile phones to charity. When she later turned the phone on she saw the texts of a “highly sexualised nature” to someone who appeared to be a young girl.
She became very concerned and alerted her mother, then the estranged wife of Humphries. His wife and brother-in-law confronted Humphries the next day and Humphries immediately became distraught and talked about killing himself.
This threat was taken seriously and Humphries was hospitalised, where he did make a suicide attempt. He was transferred to a St Patrick’s mental health hospital where he made another suicide attempt.
The charges are sample counts out of a larger number, including five of defilement and dozens of sexual exploitation.
Humphries sent the first text message to the girl in December 2008. She later told gardaí that she didn’t know how he got her number but presumed it was through her GAA club.
For months the texts consisted of general conversation about her schooling and life. In 2009 he sent her two images of his penis.
She became upset about these and deleted them immediately. She told him not to send anything like this again and he reverted to sending non-sexual texts.
A year later the texts became increasingly sexual again with Humphries asking the girl about her sexual experience. He then began asking to meet up with her for sexual contact.
She said she was more comfortable at this point with these exchanges. Forensic analysis by investigators of a number of mobile phones used by Humphries showed that over 16,000 texts were exchanged back and forth from him to the victim in the three months up to March 2011.
Some of these texts were read out in court. In texts sent in the middle of the night on New Years Day 2010 he asked her was she “getting laid”.
In February 2011 he asked the girl to “be my whore”.
Shane Costello SC, prosecuting, told the court that the victim was present in court but did not wish to give evidence and did not wish to see the contents of a “very personal” letter of apology written by Humphries to her.
In her victim impact statement she said that she felt ashamed that she had allowed a man three times her age to manipulate her. She said Humphries actions have resulted in the loss of her childhood and of her trust in men.
She said she suffers from flashbacks and panic attacks and is in a constant battle with depression.
Finally, she thanked the family of Humphries for reporting him to gardaí, saying “I will be forever grateful to them”.
Hugh Harnett SC, defending, handed in a number of testimonials to court, including statements from the chief sports writer of the Sunday Times and a well known sportsman about Humphries’ journalism career and involvement with GAA.
The sportsman wrote of Humphries’ previous good character and his activity as a volunteer in the GAA and expressed shock and disappointment at his offending. The Sunday Times writer said Humphries was once a “hugely regarded and respected national figure”.
Mr Harnett said that as a result of his offending his client has lost his job, his career and his reputation as a result of his behaviour.
He said that Humphries fell into a morbid depression in 2008. Medical reports stated that Humphries continued to present a very real suicide risk and that he didn’t want psychiatric treatment because he felt that “he deserved to feel psychological pain”.
The report from Dr Paul O’Connell said that Humphries was genuinely remorseful and genuinely suicidal.
Mr Hartnett said that the report also stated that it was possible that underlying neuro-cognitive deficiencies could have impaired his client’s judgement during the period of his offending.
Judge Karen O’Connor said she needed time to consider all the evidence in the case and adjourned sentencing to October 24. Mr Hartnett told the court that his client had requested to be remanded in custody and to receive medical treatment in custody.