The former high profile sports journalist Tom Humphries has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for grooming and sexually abusing a teenage girl.
The court heard Humphries’ daughter discovered texts of a sexual nature between him and the young girl on an old phone she had asked him to donate to charity.
Forensic analysis showed that he exchanged over 16,000 text messages with the girl over a three-month period until March 2011.
After this grooming, he met up with her and the abuse escalated to sexual acts over a 14-month period.
Humphries, 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.
This offence comes with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
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. These took place when the victim was aged around 16 and Humphries was aged 47.
The charges are sample counts out of a larger number, including five for defilement and dozens for sexual exploitation. The court heard that Humphries made contact with the girl through his volunteer work with junior GAA sports teams.
Some of the texts exchanged were read out in court during the sentence hearing earlier this month. In texts sent in the middle of the night on New Years Day 2010 he asked her was she “getting laid”. When she replied yes, he texted “nice c**k?”.
In February 2011 he asked the girl to “be my w***e”. In other texts he wrote “you’re going to get some c**k tonight”.
In her victim impact statement the woman 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.
Hugh Harnett SC, defending, handed in a number of testimonials to court, including statements about Humphries’ journalism career and involvement with GAA from former Cork hurler Donal Og Cusack and David Walsh, a sports writer of the Sunday Times newspaper.
Today, Judge Karen O’Connor said Humphries had cultivated the contact and he knew that he was wrong.
She noted that the injured party, who did not wish to be called “victim”. She said the young woman continued to suffer but was a strong person.
The judge described the injured party as having “lost much of her childhood and lost her innocence in a crucial time of her life”.
She noted the young woman missed out on exams and life experiences and that the ordeal had left her with flashbacks, panic attacks and blocking out of childhood memories.
She acknowledged that Humphries’ guilty plea had saved the young woman the ordeal of having to go through a time consuming trial. She accepted that Humphries had lost his livelihood, most of his friends and that he had been going through a difficult time with his marriage breakdown during the offending.
She said observing Humphries in court, “it would be difficult not to have some sympathy for him but that’s not to excuse his behaviour”.
She noted that “the higher the profile of a member of society, the greater the fall”, and she accepted that the media attention in the case had also been difficult for Humphries’ family.
Lawyers for Humphries told the judge they had been asked to convey the former sports journalist’s “deep shame and remorse” to the injured party and her family.
The judge noted that the most important aggravating feature of this case was the impact the crimes had on the injured party.
She acknowledged that the young woman described feeling guilt, shame and a sense of self-hatred that she had allowed herself to be manipulated.
“I’m not of the view that she allowed herself to be manipulated. I’m of the view that she was manipulated,” Judge O’Connor said.
She referred to a psychologist’s report on Humphries opened to her and listed various health problems, such as insomnia and cardiac arrhythmia. She noted a psychologist’s suggestion that he had a neurological cognitive disorder, but said in her view Humphries was aware of his wrongdoing.
She further noted that Humphries had declined to receive recommended psychiatric treatment.
The judge said Humphries’s guilty plea, despite not being an early one, was a mitigating element.
Judge O’Connor said Humphries had no previous convictions, had not come to adverse garda attention since and lived a reclusive lifestyle.
The judge classed the defilement charges as on the upper end of the mid-range of offending and imposed a two-and-a-half year sentence.
She noted that the exploitation charge carries a maximum life sentence, but imposed a two-year sentence to run concurrently to the two-and-a-half year jail term.
She did not order any post release supervision and backdated the sentence to when Humphries entered custody on October 3 this year.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has criticised the leniency of the sentence handed down to Tom Humphries.
Noeline Blackwell, from the centre, said: “We may need to look at sentencing, but certainly just the implementation of sentencing is what’s important about this case.
“A view was taken that because the person had had a high position that wasn’t anymore, that seemed to be the key that was deciding the length of the sentence, not the level of harm that this man purposely did many, many times to a young girl.”
In 2015, Niamh Nic Dhomhnail’s ex-boyfriend Magnus Meyer Hustveit was given a seven-year suspended sentence after admitting several counts of rape and sexual assault. The following year his sentence was raised to 15 months in prison after the DPP said that the sentence was “unduly lenient”.
Niamh says days like today undoubtedly make it harder for victims to come forward.
She said: “Whatever I have read seems to go into great detail into how Tom Humphries has been affected by this. The judgement mentioned he has lost his livelihood, his reputation, the judge considered letters from close friends and considered the impact on his family and his health issues.
“And at the very end, from the news reports that I have seen, there was a small amount on the damage done and the harm done to the individual in question.
“It just shows that they don’t get it.”