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Gang Rape by Teenagers in Co Clare

The Teen on a Path to Destruction

Thomas O'Neill, the 16-year-old leader of the Cratloe Woods gang-rape, already had 36 previous previous convictions

The Sunday Tribune, 3 July 2005 by John Burke


LIKE thousands of other teenagers across the country, 17-year-old Thomas O'Neill is facing the long summer wait for his leaving certificate results. But the Limerick youth is unlike other students . . . O'Neill sat his exams in Saint Patrick's Institution, where he is serving 10 years for leading the horrific gang-rape of a 35-year-old woman in the Co Clare woodlands.

The gang members, the youngest aged just 14 at the time of the rape and assault on the woman and her partner in January 2004, come from a background that is all too familiar to welfare services, probation officers and gardai working at the coalface of anti-social behaviour in urban areas.

Though just 16 at the time of the attack, O'Neill was identified as the leader of the gang . . . commanding a group of five including four teenagers and one 25-year-old, Stephen Barry from Roxboro Road in Limerick. Barry last week received a 21-year sentence from the Central Criminal Court for his role in the attack.

Few eyebrows were raised at the revelation that Barry has 36 previous convictions, having previously served terms in prison from between six and 12 months on charges of larceny, burglary, trespass, violent behaviour and breaching a barring order.

But more amazing is the litany of convictions and crimes of the teenage gang leader Thomas O'Neill, who counted Barry, nine years his senior, as one of his footsoldiers in crime. In just four years O'Neill received convictions on 36 occasions, but spent little time behind bars.

O'Neill first came to the attention of Limerick gardai in 2001, for possessing stolen property. By this stage, gardai argue, O'Neill was already set on a path of destruction and violence. When his first conviction was processed through the courts, the probation services noted poor cooperation from his parents.

O'Neill, from Lenihan Avenue in Limerick, is one of five siblings fathered by three different men. One of the three, his step-father, is serving a prison sentence for drugoffences.

Between the ages of 13 and 15 O'Neill was sent twice to Oberstown House, the northDublin centre for juvenile offenders. He was sent home the first time, in May 2002, due to a shortage of beds. The following time he absconded on several occasions.

At the time of the rape, O'Neill should have been less than halfway through a threeyear term for aggravated burglary imposed in late 2002.

He had been detained at Trinity House in Lusk, which is deemed to be for more serious juvenile offenders than those sent to Oberstown House, but Trinity House found the youth to be dangerously volatile and unmanageable. They applied for an "unruly and depraved" order and O'Neill was transferred to Limerick Prison, which is for adults. He was 15 years old when he was released from Limerick, three months later, on New Year's Eve 2003.

Indicative of the underfunding by the state of the probation and welfare service, O'Neill's release was unsupervised and he returned to criminal activity straight away.

Just one instance, which has since come to light, highlights the extent to which O'Neill had become uncontrollably violent long before his drink-fuelled gang came across the woman and her partner at the quiet Cratloe Woods site, raping her and assaulting her partner severely.

Last month, Limerick Circuit Court was told that O'Neill, and then 17-year-old co-accused, Sean Flanagan, also from Lenihan Avenue, caused over 1,000 worth of damage to a neighbour's house. O'Neill later threatened to kill a garda in July 2003, a few months after his release from Limerick prison.

O'Neill and Flanagan robbed the home of a neighbour, Tony Butterfield. The married father of four and other neighbours were regularly terrorised by the juvenile gang, gardai said. The Butterfield family have since moved out of the area in fear and others have followed suit.

O'Neill could easily have been locked away on a homicide charge two years ago.

When Garda Edmund Ryan called to the scene of a burglary with a colleague, O'Neill swung for his head with a sharpened bill-hook and barely missed.

When Flanagan came running from the house, O'Neill told Ryan "I will kill you if you touch him". The court heard that Flanagan, who was a talented soccer player with prospects of being signed by English or Scottish clubs, swung a blade at Ryan's colleague.

During the first series of rape and assault trials at the Central Criminal Court last July, involving the charges against the teenagers, the court was told that all four came from "difficult" backgrounds. It was claimed that O'Neill was under the influence of one of the city's criminal gangs. Local sources told the Sunday Tribune that the extent of the teen's involvement with any of the main drugs gangs in the city was slight, at most.

Dean Barry, from Garryglass Avenue in Ballincurra, who was also 16 at the time he took part in the rape, has nine previous convictions, mostly for road traffic offences and theft. Darragh Ryan, who is also from Lenihan Avenue, and who was also 16 at the time of the rape, has convictions for assault, criminal damage and theft. The youngest of the teen-gang, Jason Ring, from Crecora Avenue, who was 14 when the rape was carried out, has since been convicted of theft.

After the four were convicted, gardai in Limerick noted a significant fall-off in criminal damage and theft in Ballincurra Weston and Prospect. O'Neill received a ten-year sentence, Dean Barry and Ryan received nine and eight years respectively, while Justice Paul Carney gave Ryan four years - the maximum for a person under 16 years.

But despite the four teenagers and the 25-year-old being locked away, locals still face crime on a regular basis.

One local councillor told the Sunday Tribune that residents in the Prospect area and Ballincurra "live daily with the blight of anti-social activity from young kids on drink and drugs.

"What these fellas did sickened the stomachs of every decent person in the city, and the stomachs of a lot that might only be called halfdecent, but there's a lot of other young fellas robbing and terrorising people in the poorest parts of the city, getting only a slap on the wrist".

Convicted Rapist Jailed at Limerick Court over Offensive Weapon

Limerick Leader, 6 December 2010

A CONVICTED rapist who was involved in the brutal gang rape of a woman in Cratloe Woods six years ago, has been living in fear for his safety since his release from prison this year, a court has heard.

The rapist was one of five men convicted of charges relating to the attack on the victim and the vicious assault of her male companion which were described by the sentencing judge at the time as crimes of "appalling barbarity".

Dean Barry served five years of the nine year sentence imposed on him for his involvement in the rape in January 2004 when he was 16 years of age.

The 22-year-old was released from prison earlier this year and according to his solicitor, Ted McCarthy, "Certain people have an idea that they are doing society a favour by perpetuating violence against him."

The convicted rapist appeared before Limerick District Court where he read a book entitled 'Nightmare in Laos: The True Story of a Woman Imprisoned in a Communist Gulag', while waiting for his case to be heard.

His solicitor told the court Barry has been unable to secure long-term accommodation since his release from prison because as soon as landlords discover his background, they ask him to leave.

Mr McCarthy said his client returned to his home in Garryglass Avenue where he was targeted by young men from the locality intent on causing him harm.

The court was told that gardai were on mobile patrol on Hyde Road on August 8 last when they observed a car driving at speed in the direction of Garryglass Avenue.

Two men got out of the vehicle carrying weapons and set upon Barry who was armed with a baseball bat. There were up to 30 people in the area at the time, the court heard.

The two aggressors were arrested, and Barry was later arrested and charged with Section 11 possession of a weapon and Section 15 violent disorder.

His solicitor told the court that his client had the baseball bat "because he was in fear for his safety", adding that gardai accept that Barry is under threat.

Separately, the defendant was also charged with obstructing a garda in the earlier hours of July 9 this year, following his arrest on O'Connell Street where he was observed striking a man from behind without any sign of provocation.

The court heard how Barry headbutted the front door of Henry Street garda station after he had been released from custody, lashing out at gardai on duty at the time who had to restrain him.

Mr McCarthy said the defendant wanted gardai to return the items they had taken from him upon his arrest, and he wished to apologise for his behaviour.

Judge Tom O'Donnell noted that the DPP saw fit to allow these matters be dealt with in the District Court on the basis of the accused's guilty plea. He said the circumstances surrounding the incident at Garryglass Avenue were disturbing.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” the judge said, noting that the parties who arrived in Garryglass Avenue were wrong to do so, and Barry was wrong to retaliate. The judge imposed a six month sentence for possession of an offensive weapons and took the violent disorder charge into consideration.

He also imposed two six month sentences to run concurrently for the offences committed on O’Connell Street and Henry Street Garda Station.