AN elderly man who repeatedly raped and abused a young girl throughout her teens will spend less than a year in prison because of his health problems.
The 79 year old man, who cannot be named to protect his victim’s identity, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to two charges of sexual assault and one charge of oral rape of the girl in Tipperary on dates between September 8, 1995 and September 7, 1998.
The court heard that these were sample charges and that he originally faced 58 charges which included rape.
An investigating garda told prosecuting counsel Caroline Biggs SC that the accused began abusing the girl after she showed interest in a sport he was playing and he began training her.
He began raping her when she was 13 and home sick from school.
He would go on to rape her in his car as they were going to and from sporting events.
After raping her when she was 16, the victim was in pain for months afterwards and eventually required surgery.
This happened again a short time later requiring further surgery.
After the defendant's wife died, the girl used to stay over at his house on the premise of getting up early for sports and he used this opportunity to further abuse her.
The woman, now aged 30, stated in her victim impact report that the man had stolen her childhood, teenage years and early adulthood and that it makes her feel disgusting that her parents have had to hear about his abuse of her.
She said he stopped her having a social life or friends and that she is reminded of him every time she sees an old man.
The girl was in fear of the man as he frequently told her how he had killed people during his time in the army and how he could make people “disappear”.
The victim said that when a court allowed the elderly defendant to have his passport pending trial, she was “extremely nervous” and scared that he had followed her abroad and was “watching” her.
She also told how she cannot visit her family anymore because the accused lives nearby.
In 2008 the woman told her partner about the abuse and some time later made a statement to gardai. The man was arrested and made limited admissions about the abuse, saying repeatedly that he loved the victim.
When asked how the abuse had happened, he replied: “Human nature”.
Defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC said his client’s guilty plea, although late, was extremely valuable as it saved the victim having to give evidence.
Counsel said the man is sincerely remorseful and unlikely to reoffend.
He said his client is in ill health and had a “mini-stroke” earlier this year.
The court heard that since the accused was remanded in custody in mid-October he collapsed in prison and was again hospitalised for a week.
Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan handed down a six-year sentence for the offence of rape, but suspended the final five years in view of the precarious state of the defendant's health and his advanced years.
He also imposed two sentences of two years apiece for both counts of sexual assault to run concurrently with the rape sentence, and suspended the final year of each.
Mr Justice Sheehan said that the accused had caused great suffering, which continues to affect the victim.
He said the mitigating factors include the defendant’s guilty plea, his cooperation with the gardaí, and most importantly, his apology and remorse.
However Mr Justice Sheehan said that the gravity of the offending could not be marked by a fully suspended sentence, and that a short period in prison was required, notwithstanding the accused's very serious physical and mental health problems and his old age.
The court heard that the accused has already been placed on the sex offenders' register, and that his prison sentence has been backdated to 16th October 2012.