Former Christian Brother jailed for sexual assault of two pupils almost 50 years ago

Former Christian Brother Jailed For Sexual Assault Of Two Pupils Almost 50 Years Ago
John Merrick (77) pleaded guilty to seven charges of indecent assault. Photo: Getty Images
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Sonya McLean

A former Christian Brother has been jailed for a year for the abuse of two pupils in a Dublin school almost 47 years ago.

John Merrick (77), of Portmarknock Park, Portmarknock, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four charges of indecent assault against one sixth class pupil and three charges of indecent assault against his classmate on dates between September 1977 and June 1978.


Both men, who are now 58-years-old, indicated that they wish to retain their anonymity but are happy for Merrick to be named in reporting the case.

Merrick, who joined the Christian Brothers at the age of 14, subsequently left the order in 1981 after meeting his now wife. He has two children and a number of grandchildren.

He has previous convictions from the District Court in relation to similar offending around the same time. These incidences of abuse were reported in 1996, and he was later convicted in 1998, resulting in a six-month and 12-month suspended sentence.

Philipp Rahn SC, defending, told the court that at the time of the convictions from the District Court, Merrick engaged in a sex offender treatment programme and also subsequently engaged in the Restorative Justice Programme.


One of the men took the stand to read his victim impact statement.

He used his power to take advantage of me.

He said this was meant to be a victim impact statement, but he found it difficult to assess the exact impact the abuse had on him, as he was a little boy in primary school at the time.

He said he cannot bear for anyone to touch him and does not know if this would have been the case had Merrick not touched him inappropriately as a child.


“He used his power to take advantage of me,” the man continued, and said he wondered would he have turned out to be a more amiable and trusting person if he had not been molested by Merrick.

The man said he has a short, explosive temper, and he can be quite blunt and direct. He said he often wonders, when he compares himself to his siblings, if he may have had a much different temperament, more like his family, had he not been abused as a child.

“Would I be more approachable if it were not for the abuse?” he asked, and spoke of being terrified when his own daughter started school.

He said he has suffered from depression for many years and, while he cannot say that this was totally due to Merrick’s actions, he said he feels it was a contributing factor.


He also spoke of reporting the case, adding: “It won’t make those feelings go away, but I hope that justice can now be served, and I can get on with my life.”

It is a tragedy that victims have to live with this for the rest of their life.

Judge Pauline Codd said the man had been “courageous” in delivering his victim impact statement before the court and described it as an articulate account of the impact the abuse had on him.

The judge thanked him and noted that he did not seek to lay all the blame at the feet of the accused.


“He has shown a great level of self-awareness and gave a very balanced account of the impact the abuse had on him. It is a tragedy that victims have to live with this for the rest of their life, and that is fully accepted by the court,” Judge Codd said.

She acknowledged that the law which existed at the time of the offending meant that the maximum penalty available to the court is two years.

She said the law at the time “did not acknowledge the impact of such abuse on young children”, before she added that “additional sentencing powers” now exist that recognise the seriousness of such abuse.

“That was sadly not a feature of society at the time of these events,” Judge Codd said.

The judge also noted that the court has no way of knowing what Merrick’s psychological profile was at the time he was abusing these children. She noted that Merrick was 14 when he entered the religious order, adding that “sexual repression and isolation was rife at the time” in the order.

Judge Codd imposed a sentence of 12 months for the offences against the first man and a consecutive 10-month term for the offences against the second man.

She said the most significant aggravating factors in the case were the youth of the two victims at the time, and the breach of trust involved. She said the young boys were clearly afraid of Merrick at the time and of what was happening to them.

She acknowledged that Merrick had pleaded guilty and said this was of significance in terms of acceptance of responsibility and had saved the two men from having to give evidence.

“They would have been worried as to whether they would be believed,” Judge Codd said, adding that guilty pleas are of assistance, particularly in historical cases.

Judge Codd also accepted that Merrick has not come to Garda attention since, and has demonstrated an awareness of the impact of his offending through a letter of remorse he had written to the court.

Judge Codd imposed consecutive sentences totalling 22 months in prison before she suspended the final 10 months of the term on strict conditions for 12 months.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800-77 8888, access text service and webchat options at or visit Rape Crisis Help.

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