Friday 22 September 2017

Terminally ill child abuser to die in prison

Ben Haugh and Conor Gallagher

A TERMINALLY ill man who sexually abused five of his daughters throughout their childhood has been jailed for 18 months.

The 74-year-old man pleaded guilty to 16 sample counts of rape, indecent assault and sexual assault over a thirteen year period between 1977 and 1990 in a number of locations around Galway.

The court heard the man has only weeks or months to live and will most likely die in prison.

Mr Justice Paul Carney rejected a defence application to allow him spend his last days trying to reconcile with his family which has been split apart by his offences.

The judge said he would usually try to avoid sentencing someone to die in prison but that the offences were of such gravity that a custodial sentence had to be imposed.

He said because of the man’s condition he was only imposing a fraction of the sentence he normally would in such cases. He noted that the prison service have stated they will have great difficulty in meeting the accused’s medical needs but that they would be able to cope.

The accused appeared in court with a portable ventilator and coughed heavily through the hearing. He addressed the court at one point, stating: “I’m truly sorry, could you please forgive me?”

An investigation was launched in 2008 when five of the man's daughters made a complaint to gardai about being sexually abused throughout their childhood. The women are now all in their 30s.

Sergeant Tom Butler told Paul Greene SC, prosecuting, that the women were brought up under a strict code of militaristic discipline, and their father would slap or hit them with a wooden paddle.

Large trees were planted around the garden and the children were discouraged from making friends or leaving the boundaries of their home.

Sgt Butler said the women's father planned his crimes well and would abuse his daughters when their mother was in hospital or working elsewhere in the house.

He described the abuse as “unrushed and methodical.”

The abuse followed a similar pattern and starting when each daughter was four or five-years-old and continuing into their teens.

The Central Criminal Court heard that the man raped two of his daughters from the age of eight and at times the abuse happened on a daily or weekly basis.

The children would often be given small gifts after being abused, such as cheese, coins or a matchbox full of sweets. The children would always be warned or threatened not to tell their mother.

The court heard that their father was cruel to animals, and had once caught a stray cat in a potato sack and smashed it against the wall, telling his children: “This is how you kill a cat.”

The elderly man initially denied all accusations and insisted that his daughters were lying. He later admitted to the abuse and blamed his bad memory on his deteriorating health.

In a victim impact statement, one of the women said: “I started to become aware of darkness in the house from a young age” and said fear was most prominent emotion of her childhood.

She said she wet the bed often as a child because she was afraid to go to the toilet in case she bumped into her father.

Fergal Kavanagh SC, defending, said his client had written letters to all of his daughters apologising and asking for forgiveness.

Mr Kavanagh told the court that his client suffers from a series of serious medical issues including cancer, which is spreading to his lungs, and the infectious MRSA disease.

Francis Nangal, Head of Nursing for the Irish Prison Service said it is possible to isolate someone but there would be significant challenges in prison.

“We are not as equipped as a hospital so it could be difficult but manageable but it is not without some risk,” she said.

“The prison service provides a primary care service so if he needed secondary care he would have to be transferred to a hospital.”

Ms Nangal told Mr Justice Carney she thinks the prison service can cope with him as they have “managed people with complex medical conditions.”

ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE:

Four of the women read their own victim impact statements in court.

One of the women said the house was surrounded with trees “like a fortress” and she was forced to create her own world because friendships were discouraged.

She said she felt like a trapped animal at the time and has suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts.

Mr Kavanagh said his client was born in England during World War Two and had a difficult upbringing.

He said he was made an orphan during the war and never knew what happened to his parents.

He moved to the west coast of Ireland where he started a family and survived on social welfare.

Garda Ailish Hynes told Mr Green that the accused is very religious and quoted extensively from the bible during garda interview.

The five women come from a much larger family and their decision to make a complaint has caused a divide in the family.

Their mother decided to stand by her husband and has lost contact with some of her daughters as a result.

Letters from other siblings were handed into court detailing the happy elements of their childhood as well as describing and sympathising with a long list of serious illnesses their father suffers with.

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