Jailed paedophile rugby coach and teacher John McClean to face more Garda investigations
Garda investigations into paedophile rugby coach John McClean will continue after he was jailed yesterday for eight years for sexually abusing 23 schoolboys.
McClean targeted pupils in sports changing rooms, classrooms, his own office and during costume fittings for school plays between 1973 and 1990.
The victims were aged between 11 and 17, with some abused over multiple occasions by the English teacher at the prestigious Terenure College, Dublin.
His first known victim, Damien Hetherington, was 12 when he was abused in the early 1970s. Mr Hetherington said McClean “got what he deserved” after being sentenced.
Mr Hetherington (59) said McClean should have been put away for life.
In their victim impact statements, complainants described the rugby coach as “evil personified” – with one victim saying he had crossed paths with the devil in Terenure College.
After the sentencing hearing yesterday, the school issued a statement apologising and acknowledging it had failed the victims of the man it employed to teach English and coach rugby.
At Dublin Circuit Court yesterday Judge Pauline Codd said the sheer scale and duration of the crimes involved a mind-blowing and brazen level of arrogance.
McClean had abused his position of trust and power within the school to indecently assault the boys over a 17-year period, she said.
Judge Codd rejected an application by the defence to defer the paedophile’s custodial sentence until he gets his Covid vaccine.
McClean (76), of Casimir Avenue, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment with the final three suspended on 27 counts of indecently assaulting 23 schoolboys.
He had initially been charged with dozens of counts of indecent assault but pleaded guilty to 27. The rest were taken into consideration.
Judge Codd said the accused had “cast his net wide” in carrying out the indecent assaults and she said he abused the power and trust placed in him by the victims and their families.
The judge said the court could only sentence McClean for his crimes and not for the faults of the institution that failed in protecting the boys.
Evidence was previously given of how one boy reported his alleged abuse during a costume fitting to the school in 1979.
McClean was removed from costume-fitting duties but later was made first-year form-master and given his own office, where he went on to abuse nine victims.
It also emerged he owned up to abuse allegations in 1996 after a father of one of the victims confronted the school.
The court heard Fr Robert Kelly, then the Prior Provincial of the Irish Province of Carmelites, told the father to make a complaint to gardaí.
Notes of an exchange between Fr Kelly and McClean from that time showed the rugby coach admitted the abuse and was removed from the school.
Fr Kelly told gardaí he did not recall the admission but accepted if it was in the notes then it was true.
Terenure College and the Carmelite Order yesterday acknowledged they had failed in their duty to protect the victims and apologised.
They also said they will co-operate fully with the gardaí and all relevant authorities in child protection matters.
The Garda investigation into McClean is continuing and further alleged victims have been identified. Detectives are now expected to build further cases against McClean in the hope of future prosecutions.
Mr Hetherington urged other victims of abuse to come forward and he said it was never too late. “I would say never give up. I would never have thought 47 years later I’d be standing here; 47 years it took me to get this,” he said.
“So don’t give up, follow it up, the guards will put in the work. They put in the work and this is the result.
“This has been a scar on this country for God knows how long. Not just the clergy, teachers and that but sports and everything.
“But for anyone else please come forward, you’d be surprised how good you’ll feel.”
Throughout the three-day sentencing hearing, McClean kept his head down and covered his face with his hand.
Mr Hetherington said he felt anger watching McClean in the dock but said he was now looking at an old man who got away with the abuse for most of his life.
“Obviously he couldn’t look at any of us in the eye and his head was down all the time. He’s gone now to where he should have been 25 years ago,” said Mr Hetherington.
Judge Codd yesterday said that 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 judge considered McClean’s guilty plea, his previous good character, lack of any previous convictions and his “fall from grace”, having been previously regarded as a prominent rugby coach.
Counsel previously said McClean wanted to publicly acknowledge his actions have done great harm to Terenure College, to the wider community and to the Carmelite Order, for which he is sorry. The apology was taken into consideration by the judge.
He also said McClean’s name will be “forever infamous for what he has done”.
When first interviewed by gardaí in 2018, McClean denied all the allegations and said he did not recall most of the victims.
This, Judge Codd noted, was ironic as to him the boys were largely nameless faces but to the victims his name, physical strength and even the smell of the aftershave he wore was imprinted on their minds and lives.
She also commended Garda Inspector Jason Miley and his team for the humane way in which they handled the case, a point also outlined by many of the victims.
Sean Guerin SC, defending, earlier argued the court should defer any custodial sentence imposed until McClean is vaccinated against Covid-19.
McClean was elderly, had an auto-immune disease and was at greater risk from a previous cancer treatment, he said.
Paul Murray SC, prosecuting, said other people have been imprisoned during the pandemic.
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 moral dilemma.
The court would not defer placing McClean in custody.