Former Terenure College rugby coach jailed for 8 years over sexual abuse of 23 boys
Former rugby coach John McClean has been jailed for a total of eight years for the systematic sexual abuse of 23 schoolboys at a Dublin fee-paying school over three decades.
The prolific paedophile had pleaded guilty to a total of 27 counts of indecent assault at Terenure College carried out between 1973 and 1990.
He worked as an English teacher in the school and later went on to become director of rugby at UCD.
Today Judge Pauline Codd said that the “sheer scale and duration” of the crimes involved mind-blowing arrogance and rejected a defence submission to defer imprisoning McClean until he receives a Covid-19 vaccine.
The victims were aged between 11 and 17 and many were sexually abused multiple times. They described him as “evil personified” and one victim said he crossed paths with the devil in Terenure College.
McClean (76), of Casimir Avenue, Harolds Cross, carried out the crimes in sports facilities, classrooms, and in the changing room of the school’s concert hall during costume fittings.
The school was notified of one incident of abuse in 1979 and removed him from costume fitting duties, but the following year he was appointed first year headmaster.
He was given his own office as part of this role where he went on to abuse nine more boys.
This afternoon John McClean was finally jailed for the repeated sexual abuse he inflicted on the children and was sentenced to eleven years with three suspended at Dublin Circuit Court.
Judge Pauline Codd said the accused had “cast his net wide” in carrying out the indecent assaults and that he abused the power and trust placed in him by the victims and their families.
The court said it could only sentence McClean for his crimes, and not for the faults of the institution who failed in protecting these young boys.
She added that the victims had articulated the crimes committed on them as schoolboys, when they were voiceless, and hoped they were now vindicated.
Crimes committed prior to June 1981 carried a maximum term of two years imprisonment, while abuse after this date is punishable by up to ten years imprisonment following a change in the law.
In relation to the first nine complainants, a total sentence of four years imprisonment was imposed.
For charges relating to four more victims, he was given a jail term of three years, to run consecutively with the first counts.
In relation to the final 10 injured parties, John McClean was sentenced to a total of four years imprisonment, suspended for three years.
This sentence is to run consecutively to the previous count, with a total prison term of eight years imposed on John McClean.
Judge Codd said common aggravating factors in each case were the sheer scale and duration of the crimes, the youth and vulnerability of the victims, the access he had to the boys through his role in the school, and the “mind-blowing and brazen arrogance” in which it was carried out over 17 years.
The court said it was also taking into account the manipulation involved, and the psychological pressure involved.
In mitigation, the court considered McClean’s guilty plea, his apology to the victims, his previous good character, lack of any previous convictions and his “fall from grace” having been previously regarded as a prominent rugby coach.
Judge Codd also considered his age and that he was at a low-risk of reoffending.
She noted it was ironic that, while McClean told gardaí he couldn’t recall most of the boys and that they were largely nameless faces, for the victims his name, physical strength and even the smell of the aftershave he wore was imprinted on their minds and lives.
Judge Codd commended Inspector Jason Miley and his team for how they handled the case in a humane way, a fact also outlined by many of the victims.
John McClean’s defence counsel Sean Guerin SC earlier argued that the court should defer any custodial sentence imposed until his client is vaccinated for Covid-19. He said McClean is elderly, suffers from an auto-immune disease and is also at greater risk from a previous cancer treatment.
Prosecutor Paul Murray SC said that other people have been imprisoned during the pandemic and that it was a matter for the court.
Judge Codd said that there was no evidence there was a greater risk to McClean in prison and said the defence was “putting a gun to the court’s head” with the morale dilemma. The court said it would not defer placing McClean in custody.
The court had previously heard that McClean admitted a number of abuse allegations to a senior priest in 1996 and he was removed from the school.
Reference to the admission was discovered in notes made by the priest, Fr Robert Kelly, who had also told a victim’s father to report the abuse to gardaí.
Fr Kelly, who was Prior Provincial of the Irish Province of Carmelites at the time, said he had no recollection of this but told detectives that if it was in his notes then it was true.
McClean’s defence counsel last week told the court that McClean wanted to give an “unreserved and unconditional apology”.
He said his client was “ashamed” of what he did and that no victim bares any responsibility for any of the harm done by him.
Counsel said McClean wanted to publicly acknowledge that his action have done great harm to Terenure College, to the wider community and to the Carmelite Order, for which he is sorry.
He also apologised to his family and said that is name will be “forever infamous for what he has done”.
In garda interviews John McClean had repeatedly denied all of the crimes, describing some allegations as implausible or false.
Inspector Jason Miley, the lead investigator, said the current management at the school had been of great assistance to the investigation.
Over the course of two days last week evidence was given of the crimes carried out by McClean as the victims also detailed the profound effect the abuse had on them.
Many were highly critical of the school at the time, saying some staff “turned a blind-eye” to the abuse being carried out.
Others said that Terenure College was now a great place, and hoped that it would recover from this.
One victim said that as a result of being sexually harmed he was unable to commit to relationships and that it left him with a feeling of no self-worth and no self-confidence.
Molested at the age of 15, he has suffered a lifetime of depression and anxiety, and was once hospitalised following a suicide attempt.
McClean also abused two brothers over separate periods which later led to a breakdown in the siblings’ relationship.
It was only in recent years they found out that the other was also a victim of ‘The Doc’.
The eldest, first indecently assaulted in the mid-1970s when he was 12, said he spent years being lonely and contemplated suicide.
“The biggest loss was my family life. We lost out 40 years of not being brothers and all that this involves, and there is no way of getting that back”, he said.
His younger brother was also aged 12 when the abuse at the hands of John McClean began in the 1980s.
In later years he said he ran off to England to avoid the pain he was feeling from what he had suffered.
He detailed how he ended up begging on the streets of London, shop-lifting and “getting off my head on drugs”; later he served a custodial sentence.
The man, now aged in his 50s, revealed how he had suicidal thoughts and always felt alone.
He described the rugby coach as “evil personified” and said that he “crossed paths with the devil in Terenure College”.
In late 1975 another pupil (12) hurt his ankle while playing rugby and McClean later molested the boy on the pretense of assessing the injury.
The victim told McClean: “What the f*** are you doing, it’s my ankle that’s sore.”
He was later dropped from the rugby for what he said was “rejecting” the teacher’s sexual advances.
One said that they were seriously impacted by the crimes but believed Terenure College is now a great place for students.
He was 16 when he was assaulted said that he was sorry to see the school’s reputation tarnished and hoped that it would recover.
The man added that he has got on with his life but that he should never have been put in that position.