Thursday 8 December 2016

'I can't go out on my own anymore because I am too scared' - Down syndrome rape victim tells court

Conor Gallagher

Published 18/01/2016 | 16:40

Faisal Ellahi (34) was also found guilty by a jury of sexual assault.after two and a half hours deliberations and a five week trial.
Faisal Ellahi (34) was also found guilty by a jury of sexual assault.after two and a half hours deliberations and a five week trial.

Years of work building up the independence of a young woman with Down syndrome were instantly destroyed when she was raped by Faisal Ellahi, a court has heard.

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At a sentencing hearing today, the victim's mother said that the family and support services had brought the woman, who is in her twenties, to the stage where she had a job, could travel on her own and could run errands for her mother.

“All that work was wiped out by such depravity,” she told the Central Criminal Court as her daughter watched via video-link from a room elsewhere in the Criminal Courts of Justice.

The victim became very upset as her mother read out a statement on her behalf outlining how they had to discuss giving her anti-HIV treatment following the attack.

A visibly moved Mr Justice Tony Hunt told the mother afterwards that it was very difficult to immediately respond to such a victim impact statement. He told her he would address it when he finalised sentence on 34-year-old Ellahi.

Mr Justice Hunt adjourned matters until next Monday to hear further mitigation on behalf of Ellahi and said he would finalise his sentence a week or ten days later.

He told Ellahi's counsel that any prospect of a partially suspended sentence would be contingent on him agreeing to be deported to his native Pakistan on his release.

Ellahi was convicted last December of raping and sexually assaulting the woman after luring her back to his apartment when she became separated from her mother near their Dublin home.

In her victim impact statement the woman's mother said that following the rape her daughter began sleeping in her bed and would have night terrors. She also began suffering from seizures.

The symptoms abated after a while but returned in the run up to the trial, the mother said: “He has robbed our family of the last two and a half years and (the victim) of the future she might have had. I feel a great sadness for her and a huge sense of loss.”

The mother also read out a statement prepared by the victim which said: “I feel so scared at all times since he did that to me. I feel confused, angry and shocked. Sometimes I get flashbacks. I can't go out on my own anymore because I am too scared.”

Ellahi, who is originally from Haripur in Pakistan, pleaded not guilty last year to rape, sexual assault and having sex with a mentally impaired person at his Dublin home on June 12, 2013. The jury was not required to deliberate on the third count if it convicted of rape.

The court heard he continued to deny the charges and maintained his position that he did not know the woman had Down syndrome.

He has no previous convictions in this jurisdiction and gardai are unaware of any convictions in his native country.

During a lengthy sentence hearing today, the DPP outlined how it built a case against Faisal Ellahi which enabled a jury to unanimously convict him of the rape of a woman with Down syndrome.

Ellahi was convicted last December of raping the woman after luring her back to her house when she became separated from her mother.

The prosecution, led by Caroline Biggs SC, needed to prove first that Ellahi had sex with the woman. It then had to show that she suffered from a mental impairment to the degree that she lacked “the ability to live an independent life or the ability to protect herself from serious exploitation.”

It also had to prove Ellahi knew the woman had Down syndrome on the day in question since it was a valid defence under the law to claim ignorance of a person's mental capacity.

Inspector Sean Campbell told the court that the woman arrived home after the rape screaming for her mother and shouting “let me in, let me in.” Her mother described her as “white as a sheet” and “shaking like a leaf”.

The woman was later taken on a tour of the area by gardaí and was able to point out Ellahi's building on two occasions. DNA swabs taken from her matched Ellahi's DNA to a certainty of a billion to one and fibres from the victim's clothes were also found on his bedsheets.

Ellahi initially denied bringing anyone back to his house on June 12, 2013. However he later admitted to bringing her back and attempting to have sex with her. He said it was “consensual fun.”

Ms Biggs outlined how several experts had assessed the victim following the rape and found that she had Down syndrome and also had a mild intellectual disability. Her mental age was assessed as being between 7 and 11 years old and she had a “romanticised view” of sexual matters as well as limited knowledge of issues such as pregnancy or STDs.

The next step for the prosecution was to show that Ellahi knew the victim was mentally impaired. Ellahi claimed in his interviews that he had never heard of Down syndrome and that people with mental impairments in Pakistan were kept in homes or in hospitals.

The head of Down Syndrome Ireland and former head of Down Syndrome International, Pat Clarke, gave evidence that Down syndrome affected all races equally and that its symptoms were the same around the world.

He said he had recently returned from a conference in India which was attended by a Pakistani delegation including several adults with the condition. He said they appeared exactly like an Irish person with Down syndrome, displaying characteristics such as distinctive facial features and head shape.

“A Down syndrome person would be an obvious clinical entity in Pakistan,” Ms Biggs submitted.

In mitigation, Ellahi's defence counsel Padraig Dwyer SC submitted that his client has an IQ of 73 although he conceded that the IQ tests were not as thorough as they could have been.

He submitted that Ellahi had attended an English college which was later shut down because of allegations of widespread visa fraud. Insp Campbell said he couldn't confirm this.

Counsel said his client came from a rural area of Pakistan and since coming to Ireland had worked as a shelf packer and as a security guard. He submitted that he had never taken social welfare out of principle, even when unemployed.

Mr Dwyer also submitted that Ellahi had propositioned 16 other women in the area including one just minutes after the rape. He said there was no pattern to the type of women he approached and that none of these incidents resulted in complaints being made to gardaí.

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