A CHILD rapist who admitted abusing his daughter for 10 years walked free from court today after a judge granted him continuing bail to appeal his prison sentence.
Mr Justice Paul Carney suspended the last nine years of a 12 year sentence imposed on Patrick O'Brien (72) after describing his crimes as one of the most serious cases of serial rape of a daughter.
He certified the case a fit case for appeal with respect to issues arising and remanded O'Brien on continuing bail pending that appeal. He ordered that the appeal hearing be expedited and granted continuing legal aid to O'Brien.
Patrick O'Brien, of Old Court Avenue, Bray, Co Wicklow pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to 16 charges of the rape and indecent assault of Fiona Doyle at Mackintosh Park, Pottery Road, Dun Laoghaire from 1973 to 1982.
The abuse began when O'Brien raped the victim on the night before she was to make her First Holy Communion.
In a statement to media outside the court Ms Doyle said that she was totally devastated by the ruling.
She said: “He raped me for ten years and he just walks out of here today. I just can't believe that this has happened.
"Last week I felt great, I was vindicated and I was told I was telling the truth. He admitted it. He pleaded guilty.
“For him to walk out of here today without serving one day, just one day, it's just devastating. We are totally devastated by the whole thing.
"I just want to go home now with my kids and just let it all sink in," she added.
“I'm a fighter. I'll come back at it again.”
Asked if he has ever said sorry, Ms Doyle said: “No, never. He never said sorry... I don't know what's going to happen now. All I can do is just wait and see. I just need to make sure that we're ok and that my kids are ok.”
Before passing sentence Mr Justice Carney heard evidence from the director of nursing services with the Irish Prison Service in relation to the level of care available to someone with O’Brien’s health issues and age.
Francis Nangle O'Connor told Monika Leech BL, prosecuting, that the Prison Service have managed patients with similar conditions as O'Brien. She said that the level of care available to him would be as good as that in the general community.
The court previously heard that O'Brien has a heart condition and that he requires oxygen for eight hours every night. Ms O'Connor said this could be provided.
Mr Justice Carney asked Ms Leech whether the DPP wanted a prison sentence to be served and if she would stand over any prison sentence imposed.
Ms Leech told the court that her only instructions in this regard were that the DPP viewed the case as falling at the lower level of the upper end of the scale but that the sentence was a matter for the court.
After hearing these submissions Mr Justice Carney said that he had only come to his view in this case in the last five minutes. He said it was a most difficult case to judge.
He said: “If I impose a serious custodial sentence and suspend it, it will go out in sound-bites, as these things do, that in one of the most serious cases of serial rape of a daughter, the man walked. That is all the community will be told.
“On the other side if I impose a heavy sentence unsuspended I will be branded as a trial judge who substituted one injustice for another. I am trying to strike a balance.”
He noted that the evidence was that the abuse of Ms Doyle was so regular that it felt to her like it became as frequent as having dinner.
He said that that after sending the other children to bed he would ask Ms Doyle to make him a coffee. He would then take the coffee and tell her to lie down, either on her front or on her back.
He said that O'Brien would have sex with her on a chair or on a coach and that it became so frequent that the child would position herself so that she could continue to watch television during the assault.
Mr Justice Carney noted that in another judgement, the Kennedy case, the Court of Criminal Appeal suspended a moderate sentence imposed of the basis on the health of the accused.
He said that in that judgement he was “horrified” to find that the DPP, “behind my back, saying it’s a matter of indifference” whether that accused served a prison sentence or not.
He said that he believed he was taking a very moderate position by imposing a sentence of 12 years for the rape charges, along with concurrent sentences of three years for the indecent assault.
He said the primary mitigating factor for the accused was his serious and exceptional medical condition. He said that other factors were his guilty pleas, his expression of remorse, his good behaviour, history of employment and the length of time since the offences. Based on these mitigating factors he suspended the final nine years.