‘Prolific paedophile’ former Limerick scout leader jailed for historic abuse of young boys

80-year-old former scout leader Jim Harmon was jailed for six years and eight months.

AN 80-YEAR-OLD former Limerick scout leader was jailed for six years and eight months for molesting five young boys, all scouts “who still believed in Santa”, in the 1970s and early 1980s.

At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Francis Comerford imposed a 16-month prison term on Jim Harmon, of Pinewood, Shannon, County Clare, for each of the five boys he indecently assaulted over a six-year period between 1976 and 1981 at locations in Clare and Limerick.

Addressing the five complainants in court – all now men in their 50s – Judge Comerford said that they have been “denied justice for a very, very long time”.

Mr Harmon was in his mid 30s during the period of the counts of indecent assaults, which took place at Cratloe in south east Clare, Holy Island on Lough Derg, and Garryowen and the Ennis Road in Limerick.

One of the five victims said in a statement that he has carried what happened to him for decades, “and those decades are matched by the others who brought this case”.

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“I therefore hope the court can appreciate that five of us in our 50s nearly have 250 years of hurt; the ripples add many more years to this, this is the impact of evil.”

The man said that Mr Harmon’s victims were “young children seven and eight years of age, children who still believed in Santa, who were supposed to have innocence in their lives, making their Communions”.

Describing Mr Harmon as a “prolific paedophile”, another victim told the court that “this predator used a position of trust to deceive parents and their children to repeatedly molest vulnerable young boys with no regard for the impact his actions had on his many young victims”.

Judge Comerford noted that one of the five informed his mother that Jim Harmon – who lived in the Garryowen area of Limerick at the time – had indecently assaulted him as far back as 1981 while in the scouts.

The boy’s mother in turn informed local scouting authorities who took action against Mr Harmon and dismissed him from his senior scouting role in 1982.

Judge Comerford said that “it didn’t go any further” and Gardaí were not informed at the time by the scouting authorities.

He said that a complaint by one of the five to Gardaí in 1996 about Mr Harmon “went nowhere”, while the DPP recommended that no prosecution take place against Mr Harmon concerning a complaint by the same man in 2014, making the same direction concerning a separate complaint by another victim in 2016.

Judge Comerford stated that it was only after Scouting Ireland set up a helpline for those abused by adults in the organisation that another man came forward to make a complaint against Mr Harmon and the older complaints were reviewed.

The judge said that the current Garda investigation that resulted in Mr Harmon’s guilty pleas involved Gardai taking 80 witness statements.

Counsel for the State, Lorcan Connolly BL (instructed by State Solicitor Aisling Casey), said that in the 1970s Mr Harmon was well respected in Limerick scouting circle and had the trust of families to bring their boys away on overnight camping trips.

One of the five, Ruairi Hickey (54), told Gardaí that Mr Harmon molested him when he was nine or 10 while the two played chess on a scouting trip to Holy Island in County Clare.

Two other boys were on the same scouting trip and, in his victim impact statement, Mr Hickey said: “I remember seeing the other two walking away and being powerless, knowing and dreading what was to come.”

Mr Hickey also recalled another scout visit with Mr Harmon to O’Brien’s Estate, Cratloe, County Clare, where Mr Harmon lined up the boys present in their underpants and measured their bodies with a soft measuring tape.

The only one of the five to waive his anonymity, Mr Hickey said that Mr Harmon measured him from his inner thigh to his hip, brushing against his genitals. He said that Harmon’s abuse was regular.

Mr Harmon was the leader of the 2nd Limerick Troop and another victim said on camping trips that Jim Harmon “told scouts that they weren’t allowed to wear underpants under their pyjamas”.

He said at night Mr Harmon would come into the tent and put his hands into their pyjamas.

He said that on another occasion, Mr Harmon had boys strip to their underwear on the pretence of undergoing a physical examination where he felt their genitals and told them they had passed “and they were great young men”.

Mr Connolly told the court that in a “remarkable coincidence”, another one of the five first disclosed Mr Harmon’s abuse for the first time during a telesales call in the early 2000s to a man who also happened to be a victim of Mr Harmon’s. Both men had lived in Limerick and were in the local scouts.

Sergeant Niall Donovan, of Roxboro Garda Station, told the court that Mr Harmon has one previous conviction in 2017 at Waterford Circuit Court for indecent assault of a young boy scout in 1976, where he received a suspended one-year and three months.

Counsel for Mr Harmon, Donal Cronin BL, said that Mr Harmon is alone in this world after becoming estranged from his family following the Waterford case.

Mr Cronin said that Mr Harmon was himself a victim of similar type behaviour in the past and expresses profound regret for his actions. He said more than 40 years have passed since Mr Harmon left the scouts and there has been no further evidence of wrongdoing.

Speaking after Mr Harmon was jailed, one of the five outside Ennis Courthouse said he was happy with the sentence imposed.

“I wanted him convicted. I wanted him going somewhere. I wanted him to hear the cell door close behind him,” he said.