Tuesday 17 October 2017

Accountant who sexually assaulted four young girls has had his prison sentence reduced

Liam Brien was sentenced to eight years imprisonment by Judge Rory McCabe on March 17 2013.
Liam Brien was sentenced to eight years imprisonment by Judge Rory McCabe on March 17 2013.

Ruaidhrí Giblin

An accountant who sexually assaulted four young girls while they waited to play his computer games has had his prison sentence reduced by the Court of Appeal.

Liam Brien (44), with an address at Valley Park, Killimor, Co Galway, pleaded not guilty to 24 counts of sexually assaulting four young girls on Main Street, Killimor on dates between 1996 and 2006.

He was found guilty by a jury of 22 counts following a five day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court and was sentenced to eight years imprisonment by Judge Rory McCabe on March 17 2013.

Brien had his conviction affirmed by the Court of Appeal today following a failed conviction appeal however he successfully had his jail term cut by three years.

Mr Justice George Birmingham said the area of most focus for Brien's appeal was the failed application to sever the indictment and separate some or all of the complainants into separate trials.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the issue had arisen quite frequently in cases of alleged sexual abuse committed against children.

However, in this case, the judge said the similarities were “really striking” in terms of how the opportunity for abuse was set up, how the children were groomed using the attraction of computer games, placing the children on the knee, fondling the genitals and so on.

It was “clearly appropriate” to have been a joint trial, the judge said, otherwise the jury would not have gotten the full picture. It was a “classic case warranting a joint trial” and it if wasn't, it was hard to conceive of such a case ever occurring, he said.

Counsel for Brien, Michael Bowman SC, further submitted that the trial judge should have discharged the jury following comments made by one of the victims in evidence that Brien was abusing all of those present in a room and was doing it in rotation.

The victim had said there would usually be three or four of them in a room and Brien would close the door behind them. There weren't enough seats for all the children in the room but Brien 'made one of us' sit on top of him and he used to put his hands down their pants, the victim had stated.

She said Brien would rub their genital area for a while until 'you got your go on the computer' and 'we'd switch in a clock-wise way'.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the trial judge was completely correct not to discharge the jury. He said the comments hadn't been lead or adduced by the prosecution, the case was that Brien abused four children and it was scarcely surprising that this victim believed she was not the only one.

He said none of Brien's grounds for appeal had been made out and the court affirmed his conviction.

Turning to the sentence, Mr Justice Birmingham said “these were serious offences,” not just from the perspective of the victims but also from the perspective of society.

He said the victims were very young, there was a breach of trust, the children were subject to grooming and one had to “have regard to the systematic nature of the offending”.

However, by reference to other sentences, Mr Justice Birmingham said, the sentence imposed on Brien was “somewhat out of line to such an extent that an error in principle” was identified.

The court substituted his original sentence for a sentence of 6 years imprisonment with the final 12 months suspended on condition Brien will keep the peace, be of good behaviour, seek a transfer to Arbour Hill prison and complete the sexual offenders programme there.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court felt the new sentence was “appropriate”.

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