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Suspended sentence for paedophile who abused boy (7)



Insults and accusations were traded on the steps of Galway Courthouse between the family of a convicted paedophile and his victim after a suspended sentence was imposed on the perpetrator moments earlier inside.

Mervue native, Anthony Spellman (50), formerly of 2 McHugh Avenue, Mervue, who now lives in Cheshire, England, pleaded guilty moments before his trial was due to begin before a jury at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last November to four sample counts of indecently assaulting a then seven-year-old boy at No. 2, McHugh Avenue and also at Misco’s Gym, Glenrock Business Park, Ballybane, on dates unknown between January 1, 1985 and January 31, 1986.

Sentence was adjourned to this week for the preparation of reports.

The plea to the four charges was accepted by the DPP on the basis that facts in a further thirteen similar charges were admitted.

The victim told the sentence hearing Spellman, who was 19 years old at the time he committed the attacks, took every opportunity to abuse him every day during the year-long ordeal.

He had threatened the boy he would cut his parents’ throats if he told anyone about the abuse, which occurred in Spellman’s own bedroom at McHugh Avenue, in his parent’s garden shed and at a neighbourhood gym.

Garda Evelyn Barrett, who investigated the matter, read a impact statement written by the victim who was present in court.

In it, the now 39-year-old man said he had lost all faith in himself while growing up and had turned to drink and drugs in order to cope with the anger and hurt he felt down through the years.

“I remember making my First Holy Communion and feeling anger, disgust and hatred because of him.

“I wanted to tell my parents but his words haunted me.  I was waking up with nightmares and I still do,” the man said in his statement.

He said his mother died from cancer when he was 14 and his father died from a heart attack in front of him on Christmas morning when he was 18.

“My world caved in and I went off the rails on drink, drugs and all the things I shouldn’t have done.  I was carrying a lot of hatred and guilt inside of me because of him and what he had done to me and that is some burden to carry.

“All my life I was angry at myself because of you,” the victim said to Spellman.

He said he had waited all his life for this day in court when he could tell the court and judge about the horrific impact the accused had on his life.

“Since the age of between six and seven you robbed me of my childhood because of your attacks and you made my life a living hell. I was afraid to tell anyone, not alone because of your threats, but also because you made me feel ashamed of myself because of what you did to me when I was a child.

“But it is you who should carry this shame and not me.  I’m relieved to be able to say that now after all these years of torment.

“I hope I can reach out to others who are suffering just like me and hope they also come forward and report the likes of you to the Gardai.

“I hope I can reach those in despair and given them some hope and encouragement to come forward,” he said.

The man thanked Det. Barrett and her colleagues for their hard work in bringing Spellman to justice.

He said his counsellor was an angel who didn’t realise how much she had helped him cope.

Det. Barrett said the abuse stopped when Spellman went to live in the UK in 1986.

He was a warehouse operative in Cheshire, had married but that ended after 18 years and he had a new partner now.

Spellman, she said, had been the subject of a Crown Prosecution Supervision Order in the UK and while there had been no prosecution, he had been deemed a risk of causing sexual harm to male children.

That order was in place from November 2008 to November 2014 and he was ordered not to approach any male child under the age of 16 or have any contact with a male child unless that child was accompanied by a guardian.

Bernard Madden SC, defending, said his client had pleaded guilty, albeit at a late stage, and had to be given credit for that as it had spared the victim the trauma of having to give evidence at a trial and be cross-examined.

He said the offences were also historical and the charge of indecent assault going back to thirty years ago, carried a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Mr Madden handed a letter written by Spellman into court in which he expressed remorse for any physical or psychological damage he had caused to his victim over the years.

“I was little more than a child myself at the time and didn’t realise the damage I was causing.  I know now and I’m apologising to him and my family,” Spellman said in the letter which Mr Madden read to the court.

“Go away from me,” the victim shouted from the back of the courtroom while shaking his head in disbelief.

Mr Madden said the supervision order imposed on his client in the UK had expired in 2014 and he had not infringed that order.

“His family are aware of the offences and it’s a cause of distress to them,” Mr Madden added.

Judge Rory McCabe said the fact the offences went back thirty years did not minimise the impact they had on the victim.

Given the maximum sentence for each offence was two years, Judge McCabe said the headline sentence for these offences, before mitigating and aggravating circumstances were taken into consideration, was 18 months each.

He placed the offending behaviour in the high mid-range on the scale of gravity and said the mitigating factors that had to be taken into consideration were that the accused had no previous convictions, had pleaded guilty and had “demons” of his own, while also stating in the letter handed into court that he had to care for a relative with special needs.

He said the accused had also shown insight and awareness of the impact the abuse had on the victim and had expressed remorse.

The judge noted the probation service had assessed Spellman as posing a medium risk of reoffending.

He said the accused now lived in England and it would be logistically impossible to impose a period of probation supervision on him.

That, he said, left two options: a custodial sentence or a suspended sentence.

The judge said that in the interests of justice a suspended sentence would be appropriate if Spellman gave an undertaking not to return to this jurisdiction.

Mr Madden said his client would give that undertaking.

The judge then sentenced him to 14 months in prison for each charge, to run consecutively, bringing the total sentence to 56 months.

He then suspended the sentence for five year on condition Spellman undertake not to return to this jurisdiction, be of good behaviour and not reoffend for the next five years.

Spellman gave that undertaking in court and was automatically placed on the Sex Offender’s Register.

Moments later, the victim and members of Spellman’s family converged on the steps of the Courthouse.

They traded insults for a few minutes before several Garda intervened to separate them.


Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge



The new Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge will be officially opened to the public next Friday, May 26.

Work on the €10 million bridge got underway in April 2022, before the main structure was hoisted into place in early December.

A lunchtime tape-cutting ceremony will take place on Friday, as the first pedestrians and cyclists traverse the as-yet-unnamed bridge.

The Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, previously said the bridge, once opened, would remove existing conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and traffic “as well as facilitating the Cross-City Link public transport corridor over the existing 200-year-old bridge”.

The naming of the new bridge has been under discussion by the Council’s Civic Commemorations Committee since late last year.

One name that has been in the mix for some time is that of the first woman in Europe to graduate with an engineering degree – Alice Perry.

Ms Perry, who was from Wellpark, graduated from Queen’s College Galway (now University of Galway) in 1906. The university’s engineering building is named in her honour.

The bridge was built by Jons Civil Engineering firm in County Meath and was assembled off-site before being transported to Galway. Funding for the project was provided in full by the National Transport Authority and the European Regional Development Fund.

(Photo: Sheila Gallagher captured the city’s new pedestrian footbridge being raised on the south side of the Salmon Weir Bridge in December. It will officially open next Friday, May 26).

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Minister branded ‘a disgrace’ for reversing land rezoning in Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell was labelled a “disgrace” for overturning councillors’ decisions to rezone land in the new City Development Plan.

Minister O’Donnell (pictured) confirmed in a letter to Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath last week that he was reversing 25 material alternations made by councillors to the CDP 2023-29. He made the decision on the advice of Office of Planning Regulator (OPR).

Minister O’Donnell directed that 14 land parcels that were subject to land-use zoning changes by councillors as part of the Material Alterations to the Draft CDP should be reversed.

He directed that a further 11 land parcels in the city should become “unzoned”.

The Minister found that the CDP had not been made in a manner consistent with recommendations of the OPR, which required specific changes to the plan to ensure consistency with the national planning laws and guidelines.

At last week’s Council meeting Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) asked for clarity on the process by which councillors could rezone the lands that had been changed by the Minister’s direction.

Cllr Declan McDonnell said, “What he [Minister O’Donnell] has done is an absolute disgrace”.

And he asked: “Do we have to have another development plan meeting to deal with it?”

Both Cllrs Hoare and McDonnell wondered what would become of the lands that were rezoned or unzoned by the ministerial direction.

Mr McGrath said the Council had put forward an argument in favour of retaining the material alterations in the plan, but ultimately the Minister sided with OPR.

He said if councillors want to make alterations to the new plan, they could go through the process of making a material alteration but this was lengthy.

The Save Roscam Peninsula campaign welcomed the Minister’s decision.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, it said the direction would mean the Roscam village area on the Roscam Peninsula will be unzoned and a number of land parcels would revert back to agriculture/high amenity.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “the material alterations made by city councillors following lobbying by developers continued the long-standing practice of councillors facilitating a developer-led plan rather than an evidence- and policy-based plan that meets the needs of the city.

“The Minister’s direction is an important step in restoring confidence in the planning system. It is clear from the City Council’s own evidence on future housing projections that there was no requirement to zone these lands for residential purposes in order to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029,” the spokesperson added.

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