A WOMAN who was raped by her father for more than a decade has spoken of her devastation after he walked free from court.
Patrick O'Brien (72) was given a custodial sentence but was allowed to leave the court to await the appeal of the jail term.
Mr Justice Paul Carney's decision immediately sparked criticism with rape crisis campaigners describing it as "mystifying".
O'Brien's devastated daughter, Fiona Doyle, broke down in tears and was comforted by her husband in court.
A 12-year custodial sentence was imposed on O'Brien for what the judge described as "one of the most serious cases of serial rape of a daughter".
However, the judge then suspended the last nine years of the sentence on grounds of ill health, age and remorse, saying the case was fit for appeal.
And in the meantime, he allowed the man to walk free from court on continuing bail and legal aid.
O'Brien and his wife Bridget repeatedly replied "no comment" to media questions as they walked away.
But Ms Doyle said that for her father to walk out of court "without serving one day, just one day" was devastating.
"He raped me for 10 years and he just walks out of here today. I just can't believe that this has happened," she said.
"From the age of eight I was called my father's whore. Those words will continue to ring in my head for the rest of my life, and so will today," she said.
Before delivering his sentence, the judge hit out at the office of the DPP, demanding to know whether it would "stand over" his custodial sentence of O'Brien.
And he claimed he had been horrified when a previous DPP "went behind my back" in another case to express indifference about whether a custodial sentence be served or not.
Barrister for the DPP, Monika Leech, told the judge that the sentencing of O'Brien was a matter for the court.
O'Brien, of Old Court Avenue, Bray, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to 16 charges of the rape and indecent assault of Ms Doyle at Mackintosh Park, Pottery Road, Dun Laoghaire, from 1973 to 1982. The abuse began when O'Brien raped his daughter the night before she was to make her First Holy Communion, when her mother went out to play bingo. Ms Doyle spent that night in pain, she told the court.
From then on, the rape happened on such a regular basis that it felt "as frequent as having dinner", she said. She told the court she turned herself into a "zombie" to shut out the pain, often watching television while her father abused her.
Before passing sentence Mr Justice Carney heard evidence from Frances Nangle O'Connor, the director of nursing services with the Irish Prison Service, regarding the level of care available to prisoners with medical conditions.
She said the Prison Service has managed patients with similar health issues as O'Brien and the level of care available to him would be "as good as that in the general community".
The court heard that O'Brien suffers from chronic obstructive airway disease and heart disease and requires oxygen for eight hours every night.
Mr Justice Carney said that this was a most difficult case to judge. "If I impose a serious custodial sentence and suspend it, it will go out in soundbites, as these things do, that in one of the most serious cases of serial rape of a daughter, the man walked. That is all the community will be told," he said.
"On the other side if I impose a heavy sentence unsuspended I will be branded as a trial judge who substituted one injustice for another. I am trying to strike a balance."
He said that he believed he was taking a very moderate position by imposing a sentence of 12 years for the rape charges, along with concurrent sentences of three years for the indecent assault.
But the chairwoman of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre described the decision to suspend the majority of O'Brien's sentence as "absolutely mystifying".
"It beggars belief," said Ellen O'Malley Dunlop, adding that it does not give a positive message to others who had courageously reported heinous crime.