Tougher sentences in sex cases demanded
CAMPAIGNERS have called for guidelines to be given to judges when sentencing sex offenders to avoid being overly lenient.
Vera O'Leary, director of the Kerry Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Centre, has also called for some kind of "community sanction" to be imposed on sex offenders as she believes simply placing them on the sex offenders' register does not offer any protection to society.
The call follows two separate cases this week where men found guilty of sexually assaulting teenagers were handed down suspended sentences.
There has been criticism of the perceived leniency of the sentences by campaigners, parents' groups and politicians.
On Monday, Wexford businessman Martin Quigley (48) of Ballyrahain Lodge, Ballyrahain Lane, Kilmuckridge, Gorey – who has 12 previous convictions, though none for a sexual crime – walked free from Tralee Circuit Criminal Court after he admitted sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman at a B&B in Killarney in August 2011.
His victim, who was in court for the hearing, wept as Judge Carroll Moran suspended the two-year sentence. She said the attack left her feeling traumatised and "dirty" and needing to shower up to five times a day.
On the same day, serial sex offender John Daly (53) of Cabra Park, Phibsboro, in Dublin, had two years of his four-year prison term suspended after admitting he deliberately boarded a Luas headed for a Rihanna concert so he could molest young girls for his sexual satisfaction.
He pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting two girls, aged 13 and 16, at the time the offences occurred in October 2011.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring imposed a four-year sentence but suspended two on the condition Daly be under the supervision of the probation services.
Daly had a number of previous convictions dating back to 1980 that included attempted rape, aggravated sexual assault and indecent assault.
Ms O'Leary said: "This has been happening over and over again where judges have been giving lenient sentences and then suspending them on the grounds of mitigating factors like reputational damage.
"Where is the balance between the rights of the victim and the rights of the accused, which seems to take precedence? It frustrates me that this keeps happening. Each time there's a lenient sentence there's limited outrage which is becoming more diluted," she said.
Chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Ellen O'Malley Dunlop told Newstalk that when an entire sentence was suspended, victims often felt they had not got justice.
Lynda O'Shea, spokesperson for the Parents' Council of Ireland, said the leniency of the sentences did not bode well for those who reported a sexual crime and would discourage other victims from coming forward. "When people are walking away with lenient sentences how can I as a parent protect my daughters?" she said.