Former solicitor and Fianna Fáil councillor jailed for five years for abusing eight-year-old girl during sleepover

John Hussey (67) named after victim waived right to anonymity over ‘appalling breach of trust’ in 2003

A former mayor and solicitor has been jailed for five years for what a judge described as “an appalling breach of trust” after he sexually assaulted an eight-year-old girl during a sleepover at his house almost 20 years ago.

Former Fermoy Town Council Chairman, John Hussey (67) of Corrin View, Fermoy pleaded guilty to a single count of sexually assaulting Hannah Beresford at his home in Fermoy between November 1st and November 2nd 2003 contrary to Section 2 of the Criminal Law (Rape Amendment) Act 1990.

Det Gda Mairead Morrissey of the North Cork Protective Services told the court that Ms Beresford, who had waived her right to anonymity so Hussey could be identified, was aged eight when she attended a sleepover party in Mr Hussey’s home in November 2003.

It was the first sleepover Ms Beresford’s parents had allowed her to attend and they only sanctioned it because they were friendly with the Husseys, including the accused who was an independent member of Fermoy Town Council, having previously represented Fianna Fáil, and a solicitor with a busy practice in the North Cork town.


Ms Beresford struggled to go to sleep after the play date and she heard the door of the bedroom she was sharing with other children being slowly opened and Hussey entered the room and placed his hand under the bedclothes and stroked her leg under her nightdress.

Hussey then fondled her private parts and digitally penetrated the child who was horrified and scared at what was happening and kept her eyes closed during the prolonged assault, Det Gda Morrissey told prosecution barrister, Lily Buckley BL.

“It really hurt ... I opened my eyes then because of the pain. He really hurt me ... I said ‘Ow’ and sat up in the bed, He [Hussey] was crouched at the end of the bed to make himself as small as possible,” Ms Beresford later told gardaí in a statement about the incident.

Ms Beresford immediately told her parents, who were concerned about her quiet demeanour after the party and both the Gardaí and the then Southern Health Board (SHB) were notified but she opted not to make a formal statement of complaint against Hussey.

However, after writing about the incident in a university newspaper in 2015, Ms Beresford made a statement of complaint on December 29th, 2020, and Hussey was later arrested but he exercised his right to silence save for a prepared statement in which he denied that he had sexually assaulted her.

Struggling at times to maintain her composure as she delivered her Victim Impact Statement, Ms Beresford outlined the effect the sexual assault has had on her over the last 20 years including how strange she found it to hear it described as “historical” given it remains with her every day of her life.

“It is difficult to capture in its entirely the impact that that this sexual assault has had on my life as this impact has not been static. I have lived more of my life in the aftermath of this assault than I lived before it and it has impacted me in different ways at different times, she said.

“There have been periods when this impact has been a whisper in the background of my existence, others when it has been an all-consuming roar,” said Ms Beresford as she recalled the night that Hussey sexual assaulted her.

“During the assault itself, my initial reaction was one of confusion, swiftly followed by fear – I was eight years old and had never been treated with unkindness or cruelty. I did not understand what was happening, why my friend’s father was hurting me in the dark.

“I had never experienced a situation where an adult in charge of me did not have my best interests at heart and I couldn’t comprehend that a grown-up would deliberately hurt me for their own gratification.

“Some part of me hoped that that there was an explanation for what was happening, that this was part of some unusual bedtime routine and that I didn’t need to be afraid but the larger part of me knew that what was happening to me was fundamentally wrong.”

Ms Beresford spoke of how sexual assault is surrounded by a heavy silence and how she felt shame over what had happened to her even though she knew that she had nothing to be ashamed of and that in turn led to great anger.

“I was hugely angry that this man, John Hussey had felt a right to my body, had inflicted this physical and emotional pain upon me and that this was compounded by a sense of guilt over something from which I was not responsible – I was furious he did not seem to carry any of the shame or guilt I felt.”

She told how she found the prospect of going through the justice process daunting but when she moved to Dublin and went to university, she found it easier to speak about what happened to her but away from her family and their support, she started to become depressed.

It began to impact on her friendships and her ability to participate in university life and the life she was building in Dublin but with the support of family and friends, she recognised she could no longer carry the burden on her own and decided to go for counselling which helped her hugely.

“I recognised that I could no longer carry this on my own – if I didn’t do something about it, this act which I had resisted being the defining moment of my childhood, risked becoming the defining moment of my late teens and twenties and potentially the rest of my life.”

Ms Beresford spoke of how the sexual assault led to “an estrangement from my own body” and to panic attacks while it also impacted on her ability to have sexual relations as well as her ability to embark on romantic relationships.

“The abstract sense of being desired has often pushed me to a sense of panic, or even the feeling of being romantically close to someone with its associated assumptions of physical intimacy – it is hard to develop romantic relationships when someone finding you attractive feels like an inherent threat.

“I am enormously lucky to have parents, Alison and Tom, who I have always been able to speak with freely, who I have always trusted and who have always trusted me. They believed me from the moment that I told them about the assault with no equivocation or doubt.”

She said that their support had been incalculable, but she had seen the toll that living with what happened her had taken on them and while they were “enormously strong, no parent should have to hear their child tell them that they been sexually assaulted”.

She paid tribute to gardaí as she recalled that the weight lifted from her from the minute that she walked into Fermoy Garda station in 2020, and she thanked everyone who had supported her over the past two and a half years since then and the preceding 17 and a half years before it.

“I have an extraordinarily rich life with many wonderful people, and I now understand myself in such a way that I can live it fully. This assault will always be a fact of my life, but I am looking forward to no longer carrying this particularly burden of secrecy and pain.”

Defence barrister Kate Aherne BL pleaded for leniency, stating it was a once off offence, adding that Hussey had asked her to apologise to Ms Beresford. She said Hussey had no previous convictions and had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity while he had also suffered personally in that his marriage had ended because of the assault and his reputation was ruined.

Prosecution barrister, Ms Buckley BL said that the DPP believed the crime was not a minor offence as it involved an invasion of the child’s bodily integrity by an adult in a position of trust and she said that the offence carried a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.

Judge Catherine Staines said she believed that the offence was on the upper end of the mid-range of such offences, given that it involved digital penetration, and the aggravating factors included the fact that the victim was an eight-year-old girl at the time and he was an adult in a position of trust.

She said that the mitigating factors including the fact that he had no previous convictions and the fact that he had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity which was of particular benefit in a case that related to an offence that happened almost 20 years ago.

She praised Ms Beresford, describing her as “a very brave lady”, and she commended her on her Victim Impact Statement which eloquently articulated the effect that Hussey’s offending had on her over the last two decades of her life.

She said that in all the circumstances she believed the appropriate sentence was one of six years, but she suspended the final year on condition he be of good behaviour while she also ordered that Hussey’s name be placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times