A CIVIL servant who sexually abused his special needs foster daughter in their Kildare home has been sentenced to three years with the final 18 months suspended.
The 46-year-old man pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on the second day of his trial to sexually assaulting the then 13-year-old girl on August 8, 2005. He has no previous convictions and has been registered a sex offender.
The man had strenuously denied the allegations to the gardai six years earlier.
Una Ni Raifeartaigh SC, prosecuting, said that the case was initially taken to the High Court when the defence sought all HSE documentation relating to the now 21-year-old because the man wanted to demonstrate that his foster daughter was inventing the story and was "prone to fantasy".
Those documents were released by the HSE four years later and a trial date was set for October this year. A jury was sworn in and the man pleaded guilty on the second day of the trial before the case was opened to the jury.
The investigating gardai told Ms Ni Raifeartaigh that the victim’s brother witnessed the man lifting the girl’s top and going to kiss her chest after she asked for help getting dressed.
The boy had been sweeping the hall and saw what was going on after the girl’s bedroom door had been left ajar.
He immediately challenged the man and said he would tell the girl’s foster mother what had happened and he would be jailed.
The man held his fist up to the boy in a threatening way and the incident was not mentioned until later that month when the victim got upset in front of her foster mother.
The man was interviewed by HSE authorities and claimed he had accidentally touched the victim’s breasts while he was trying to dress her.
He immediately moved out of the family home and was arrested the following April and charged in January 2007. He completely denied the allegation during garda interviews.
The victim has remained living with her foster family.
Her foster mother read her victim impact statement to Judge Mary Ellen Ring while the teenager watched this part of the court proceedings via video link.
When the victim and her foster mother got very upset half way through the report Judge Ring told the victim she could read the rest of the report herself rather than it being read aloud in court.
The victim said in her statement that she was saddened by the incident because her foster father had told her if she reported it, her foster mother would kick her out of the house and she worried that the woman did not love her.
"But she does love me and she tells me all the time," the victim said.
She said she thought she was going to be sick during the assault and she was angry with the man for doing it.
She said she was embarrassed having to tell people what had happened and she was afraid social workers were going to take her away.
"It took them a long time to say we could stay," she said.
She said she was afraid of having to come to court and wondered why the man had not told the judge he did do it until the second day of the trial because it meant she had to come to court, people had to take time off work and the barristers had to put all the work into the case.
She said he should also have told the gardaí the truth when they arrested him.
The victim spoke of how she missed her foster father’s family. "I don’t get to see his family anymore and I miss them and they said they would call but they don’t."
Judge Ring said the victim had special needs and challenges but she shared the need for love and security of family that the man and his wife had initially provided herself and her foster brothers.
She noted that the "disturbing" aspect of the case was the delay caused by the HSE and said it was bewildering as they showed "slight or no regard for her care" by their actions.
Judge Ring said the victim had outlined in her "comprehensive" statement that the delay in the case coming to court had particularly upset her.
She took into account that the man had pleaded guilty but said he had done so at the "11th and a half hour". She said she could not ignore this.
"She needed to be secure in the belief that she was safe at home," the judge said.
"He broke the trust of a child whose care had been entrusted to him when her early security had already been breached," Judge Ring continued before she added she was happy to hear that the victim’s foster mother continues to provide her love and support.
James Dwyer BL, defending, told Judge Ring that his client has since re-married and has always had a good work history.
He asked the court to accept that he has no previous convictions and no other allegations have been made against him.
Mr Dwyer described it as a "tragic case" and said the difficult ordeal for the victim had been outlined in her "eloquently worded" victim impact report.