Sunday 25 June 2017

Fisherman (79) jailed for indecent assault of young girl has sentence reduced

Scales of justice
Scales of justice

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A fisherman jailed for indecently assaulting a girl whose family he befriended in the 1980s has had his jail term cut by one year on appeal.

The 79-year-old Waterford man, who cannot be identified to protect the victim's identity, had pleaded not guilty at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court to 16 counts of indecently assaulting a female over the months of July and August in 1982 and 1983.

Having been acquited on 8 counts he was found guilty by a jury on the remainder and sentenced to eight years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge Pauline Codd on February 4 2014.

The suspended portion of the coastal fisherman's sentence was increased by one year today following an appeal on grounds that the sentence was excessive given his age and ill health.

The court heard he has prostate cancer, suffers from asthma and multiple system disease and had bypass surgery some years ago. He will now serve eight years in prison with the final three suspended.

Giving background, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the man was in his forties when he befriended the victim's family while they were on summer holidays in his locality and he was subsequently allowed to take their daughter on fishing trips.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the impact of the offending was elegantly summarised by the victim in her impact statement made after the jury verdict.

She said it was difficult to describe how the man's criminal acts affected her because every aspect of her life was eventually affected.

It would eventually prove 'increasingly destructive to the core of my being', she had said, having adverse affects on her husband and children and her having to abondon a very successful career which she loved.

Once she had given her evidence she said it was as though a new life had been handed to her and a weight lifted from her. She then expressed forgiveness for the appelant, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Her expression was made before he himself accepted the jury verdict, the court heard.

Mr Justice Sheehan said it was clear, the judge approached sentencing in a careful and considerate way and the Court of Appeal could find no error in principle with the starting point of eight years imprisonment.

He said the court asked itself whether a limited reduction of sentence would amount to an impermissible tinkering with the Circuit Court judge's sentence but that was not the situation in this case.

Precisely because of the age and the “very poor health” of the appelant, the court took the view that each year in prison is likely to be a large proportion of time left to him.

Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, varied the sentence by increasing the suspended portion from two years to three years.

The 79-year-old, was required to enter into his own bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for the suspended period of his sentence.

When asked if he undertook to be so bound, he said “I will”.

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