A retired surgeon has been sentenced to 20 months in jail for indecently assaulting two teenage boys who were his patients in the mid-1970s.

Michael Shine, 85, of Wellington Road in Dublin, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight charges of indecently assaulting six patients at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and at his private clinic, in Drogheda, Co Louth, on dates between 1964 and 1991.

Last month a jury convicted him on charges relating to two of those boys and acquitted him on the others.

The offences for which he was convicted occurred on dates between 1974 and 1976.

Judge Cormac Quinn imposed two ten-month sentences to be served consecutively for the assaults on the two boys.

He said he had abused the trust of patients, who were children at the time, "in the most vile manner".

Judge Quinn said an aggravating factor in the case was the fact that he was a medical consultant which carried with it a responsibility not to abuse the trust of his patients, the hospital and the medical council. 

The judge said it was a severe breach of trust by a senior doctor at the pinnacle of his profession. 

He said the assaults took place at a public hospital and private clinic where the children were entitled to feel they were in a safe place. 

In mitigation he took into account his age, his health and the fact that he had no previous convictions. 

He also took into account that the offences took place 41 years ago. 

The judge said he also took account of the references submitted on his behalf from other medical professionals and patients. 

He said the sentencing provisions he had to apply were those in force in the 1970s when the maximum sentence was two years. 

He imposed a six-month and ten-month sentence for the assaults on one boy and a consecutive ten-month sentence for the assault on the other boy. 

The total effective sentence will be 20 months. 

The judge refused a request from the defence to allow him out on bail for a week to get his affairs in order.

At his sentence hearing this morning defence lawyers said a prison sentence for the 85-year-old who is in poor health "could be fatal and would be unnecessarily cruel".

Shine admitted attending to these patients, but denied that anything inappropriate was done during his medical examinations.

Warning: Readers may find the following details distressing

One victim was aged around 15 when he attended the hospital with an ingrown toe nail. He told the trial that Shine strapped him down on a bed with rubber bungee restraints and a blanket and then slipped his hand under the blanket and groped him.

He said he knew what was happening was weird but did not know if he could speak out because he was "just a young boy".

In a victim impact statement read on his behalf he said: "He did this to me in broad daylight, in a hospital which is meant to be a place of care."

He added that the assault had a "profoundly negative effect on my life. It has never been the same since and never will be again. Being groped by Shine blew a hole in my self confidence".

He said he suffered from insomnia, depression and anxiety which affected his education and performance. He later worried about his children that it could happen to them adding, "It simply takes the wrong set of circumstances to allow someone to become a victim of life-altering abuse".

He said Shine's "blatant lies allowed this to drag on and on" and the effects of that brief encounter could never be undone.

The second victim testified that during two follow-up examinations for undescended testes at Shine's private clinic in Drogheda, Shine had indecently assaulted him.

The victim, who was in his mid-teens at the time, told the trial that he told himself for years that there was nothing improper about what the doctor did.

In his victim impact statement, the man said Shine had been a family friend and he respected him. He said he was confused by the surgeon's manner during the examination because there was a contradiction between his words and his actions.

Shine had indecently assaulted him while reassuring him that everything was ok.

"I felt confused. I had feelings of extreme guilt and embarrassment. I knew it was wrong but took responsibility for it myself and decided to bury it and never let myself think about it again. I later discovered the insidious nature of sexual abuse leaves you believing you were at fault or were partly responsible.

"I felt a shame I did not deserve well into my 20s and it was only then I got some perspective on what had happened."

He said until the day he gave evidence in the trial, he had never described fully what had happened. He believed Shine's actions were a grave breach of trust. He said he knew when he heard Shine deny the manner of the examination that he had been assaulted.

This, coupled with the verdict meant he could now say with confidence that he had been assaulted and a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He said he would like to thank the jury for believing him.

Shine's lawyers told Judge Quinn that a custodial sentence could be fatal due to his age and a range of medical conditions.

Senior Counsel Hugh Hartnett said the maximum sentence for these offences at the time was two years.

He submitted that the offences were at the lower end of the scale and asked the judge to consider imposing a suspended sentence.

He submitted several medical reports outlining a range of conditions including coronary disease, angina and dementia and said sending Shine to prison could prove fatal and "unnecessarily cruel".

He said it was an exceptional case and that 41 years had passed since the incidents.

Asked if his client accepted the verdicts, Mr Hartnett said: "Well, he has been convicted."

He also handed in testimonials from a number of people who worked with Shine over the years. Some described him as an excellent and dedicated surgeon who had always worked long hours and treated colleagues well.