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Sunday 21 September 2014

Rape sentences here 'not too lenient', study finds

Don Lavery

Published 27/01/2013 | 05:00

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Rapists who have not pleaded guilty, have failed to show insight into the nature of rape, or who inflicted violence, typically faced a sentence of at least nine years in jail, new research shows.

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And grooming a young victim tended to result in a more substantial sentence, a study of recent rape senten- cing suggests.

The findings, to be published today on a website of the Irish Sentencing Information System (ISIS) under the committee of the Court Service headed by Chief Justice Susan Denham, comes in the wake of the Fiona Doyle case last week.

Professor Tom O'Malley of NUI Galway, a member of the ISIS committee, said the results showed that there were few sentences that were lenient and those that were tended to be highlighted in the media.

He said there were a lot of severe sentences being passed and he believed Ireland dealt with sex offenders as least as severely and maybe more so than any other country in Europe.

The study of sentences since 2007 found that only three exceptional cases were found where sentences of two years or less were imposed.

No rape cases were found for which the punishment was a suspended sentence.

"Thus it would appear that a non-custodial sentence for rape is wholly exceptional and remains the law," it said.

In 17 cases sentences ranged from three to eight years, and the majority, 15, imposed sentences of between five and seven years for rape.

These included historic and more recent recent cases of child sexual abuse that included rape and instances where a degree of violence was used.

In another 23 cases, punishments ranged from nine to 14 years, and in general they involved a breach of a position of trust, such as the rape of a daughter or family member; and involved many counts of rape, particular forms of violence, degradation or humiliation.

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However, in another 12 cases sentences ranged from 15 years to life imprisonment.

Of the nine cases that did not impose a life sentence, six involved the rape of child victims.

A life sentence was imposed in three cases, two of which involved very serious child sex abuse with multiple victims over a prolonged period.

Among the heavier sentences for rape were two 15-year sentences for a man who pleaded guilty to raping and murdering a 12-year-old schoolgirl, with the life imprisonment for murder to run concurrently with the rape sentences.

In another horrific case which resulted in a 15-year sentence, a man abused the child of a woman he met on the internet, showed her child pornography and made her recreate scenes. The child was under eight.

The review said life imprisonment does not have to be reserved for the worst imaginable cases, it is also available for cases at the top end of seriousness of such offences.

Such a case of life imprisonment involved a man who attacked and raped a girl in the toilets of Supermacs. He pleaded guilty at a very late stage, only two weeks before the trial date, the case against him was clear and strong, and he had two extremely serious aggravated sexual assault convictions.

In one of the most sickening cases to come before the courts, a father who repeatedly raped and assaulted his four daughters over 18 years was given a life sentence.

He was already serving 14 years for raping another daughter, and a drinking and dysfunctional background offered little or no mitigation, the report said.

Sunday Independent

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