Kildare Nationalist – A former Christian brother convicted of sexually assaulting two students almost 50 years ago

Sonya McLean

A former Christian brother has been jailed for a year for abusing two pupils at a Dublin school almost 47 years ago.

John Merrick (77), of Portmarknock Park, Portmarknock, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four counts of indecently assaulting one sixth-form pupil and three counts of indecently assaulting a classmate between September 1977 and June 1978

Both men, now 58, said they wished to remain anonymous but were glad Merrick reported the case by name.

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

He had previous District Court convictions for similar offenses which occurred around the same time. Incidents of abuse were reported in 1996 and he was later convicted in 1998, resulting in a six-month and 12-month suspended sentence.

Defense barrister Philipp Rahn SC told the court that at the time of the District Court’s sentencing, Merrick was attending a sex offender treatment program and subsequently became involved in the Restorative Justice Program.

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

He used his power to take advantage of me.

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

He said he couldn’t stand anyone touching him, and he didn’t know if that would have been the case if Merrick hadn’t touched him inappropriately when he was a child.

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

The man said he had a short, short temper and could be quite direct and direct. He said he often wonders, when comparing himself to his siblings, whether he might have had a completely different temperament, more like his family, if he had not been molested as a child.

“Would I be more approachable if it weren’t for the abuse?” – he asked and mentioned that he was terrified when his own daughter started school.

He said he had suffered from depression for many years, and while he couldn’t say it was entirely due to Merrick’s actions, he said he believed it was part of the cause.

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

It’s a tragedy that the victims have to live with this for the rest of their lives.

Judge Pauline Codd said the man had shown “courage” in giving a statement to the court about the impact of the violence on the victim, and described it as a telling description of the impact the abuse had on him.

The judge thanked him and noted that he was not trying to put all the blame on the defendant.

“He demonstrated a high level of self-awareness and presented in a very balanced way the impact that the abuse had on him. It is a tragedy that victims have to live with this for the rest of their lives and the court fully accepts that,” Judge Codd said.

She admitted that the law in force at the time the offense was committed provided that the maximum sentence that could be imposed by the court was two years.

She said the law at the time “did not take into account the impact of such abuse on young children”, before adding that there are now “additional sentencing powers” that take into account the seriousness of such abuse.

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

The judge also noted that the court had no way of knowing what Merrick’s psychological profile was at the time he was abusing the children. She noted that Merrick was 14 when he joined the order, and added that “sexual repression and isolation prevailed” within the order at that time.

Judge Codd imposed a sentence of 12 months for the offenses against the first man and a further 10 months for the offenses against the second man.

She said the most important aggravating factors in the case were the young age of both victims and the resulting breach of trust. She said the young boys were clearly afraid of Merrick at the time and what was happening to them.

She acknowledged that Merrick had pleaded guilty and stated that this was important in terms of accepting responsibility and avoided the need for two men to testify.

“They would be worried about whether they would be believed,” Judge Codd said, adding that a guilty plea is helpful, especially in historical cases.

Judge Codd also acknowledged that Gardaí had since paid no attention to Merrick and showed awareness of the impact of his crime by writing a letter to the court expressing remorse.

Judge Codd passed further sentences totaling 22 months’ imprisonment before suspending the final 10 months of the sentence on stringent terms for 12 months.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24/7 Rape Crisis Helpline on 1800-77 8888, access text services and webchat options at or visit Rape Crisis Help website.