The former Irish Times sportswriter will be sentenced on October 24 for sexual offences. A very different-seeming man spoke to Hot Press back in 2003. Perhaps that interview is worth reading again...
The sports journalist Tom Humphries, formerly of The Irish Times, has pleaded guilty to six counts of abuse of a girl under 17 years of age. However, he could not be named at the time because of additional charges which were pending. These have since been dropped.
The charges dealt with include two counts of what is called “defilement” of a child in Dublin between December 2010 and February 2011; and four counts of inviting a child to participate in a sexually explicit, obscene or indecent act, between January 2010 and March 2011.
A five year maximum sentence generally applies for offences of this kind, but this is increased to 10 years when the activities are carried out by a “person in authority.” Tom Humphries was managing a camogie team at the time, and the girl who became the target of his grooming played for the team.
For people who knew and admired Tom Humphries, the news that such a highly regarded writer was at the centre of a criminal investigation of this kind – as first revealed by the Sunday World some years ago – seems like the most improbable fall from grace. Tom Humphries was one of Ireland’s most garlanded journalists. He was the man who got the scoop that divided a nation, when Roy Keane came out with all guns blazing about conditions in the Irish camp in Saipan, during the 2002 World Cup. A showdown between Keane and manager Mick McCarthy ensued, following which Roy Keane stormed home to Manchester – severely denting Ireland’s World Cup hopes.
Having written for the Sunday Tribune, Tom Humphries joined the Irish Times and forged a national reputation. His Monday morning column Locker Room was among the paper’s most popular set-pieces. He wrote four books under his own name, including two compilations Laptop Dancing and the Nanny Goat Mambo: A Sportswriters Year and Booked! (V. Carefully) Selected Writings. He also ghost wrote the award-winning Niall Quinn: The Autobiography (2002) and Come What May (2009) – the autobiography of gay hurler Dónal Óg Cusack.
It was in 2003 that Hot Press did a major interview with Tom Humphries, to coincide with the publication of Laptop Dancing and the Nanny Goat Mambo: A Sportswriters Year. Carried out by Kim Porcelli, it portrays a warm and likeable character. The gap between this man and the one depicted in newspaper reports over the past couple of days is a yawning and very disturbing one. But it is important to try to see everything in context.
There is no specific lesson to be learned from the interview. Nor indeed is there from Tom Humphries' shocking fall from grace. There is an argument for treating so called Romeo & Juliet cases differently, but it should go without saying that people below the age of 17 are sexually off-limits for people who, like Tom Humphries in 2010, are much older and more experienced in life. The law says so. It is as simple as that.
But it perhaps is worth recognising too that those who commit crimes – and this is no more true of journalists than anyone else – are people too, about whom family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and ex-colleagues can feel a terrible sadness that is founded in a sense of shared, albeit desperately flawed, humanity.