Tuesday 21 May 2019

'All rapists should get life,' says survivor as attacker fails in bid to cut prison time

'Ordeal still with me and it will never leave me,' says Dominique

Calling for harsher punishments: Dominique Meehan waived her anonymity so that rapist Keith Hearne could be named publicly. Photo: Collins Courts
Calling for harsher punishments: Dominique Meehan waived her anonymity so that rapist Keith Hearne could be named publicly. Photo: Collins Courts
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

A young woman who was raped at a convention in a Dublin hotel has said every rapist should get life behind bars.

It comes after the man who attacked her failed yesterday in his bid to have his 12-year sentence reduced.

Convicted rapist Keith Hearne was trying through the Court of Appeal to have his sentence cut, claiming his clean record and mental health difficulties should have been taken into account when he was sentenced.

But yesterday the court ruled that the reduction of Hearne's sentence from a possible 15 years to 12 years on the basis of his guilty plea was sufficient.

After the verdict, victim Dominique Meehan told the Irish Independent she believes sex attackers should get the harshest sentences possible.

"Every rapist should get life, and every child abuser, and without parole," she said.

"This isn't something that just happened to me on July 4, 2015. This is something that is still with me and will never leave me.

"He just won't go away. I wish he would. The verdict on his sentence brings relief that it won't go any further now, and maybe he will go away now and serve his sentence, but I still have to live with what he did every day."

Rapist Keith Hearne
Rapist Keith Hearne

She has now called for more widely available services for victims of rape and sexual assault.

"We need more rape crisis centres, we need more counsellors, we need more SATUs (sexual assault treatment units), and everyone should know what services are available and what the number is to ring. It should be as easy to remember as the 999 number," Ms Meehan said.

In 2017, Hearne (30), of Allenton Drive, Tallaght, Dublin, pleaded guilty to two counts of rape, one count of oral rape and one count of falsely imprisoning Ms Meehan at a convention in the Crowne Plaza hotel in Blanchardstown on July 4, 2015.

During his sentencing hearing, the court heard how he locked the door of a conference room in the hotel where he had cornered Ms Meehan, bound her hands with his tie and raped her. When she screamed, he told her he had a knife in his bag and would use it if she wasn't quiet.

His bag, containing a "rape kit" of a prop knife, handcuffs, condoms, a mask and "sado-masochistic" items, was later found at the scene, the Central Criminal Court was told.

Ms Meehan was only saved when another person forced their way into the room when they heard the disturbance inside.

In waiving her right to anonymity so Hearne could be named publicly, she has shone a spotlight on the treatment of rape victims, and the areas where it needs to be improved.

She has also brought sharp focus to the criminal justice system and how the process of convicting and sentencing attackers works.

"But in doing that I am now known as 'Dominique, the rape victim' where I'd much rather be known as 'Dominique, the writer' or 'Dominique, the singer'. I don't know if that will ever change," she said.

Hearne was sentenced to 12 years in prison by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy in 2017.

At the time, the judge said it was difficult to express the horror and seriousness of the offence.

He said Hearne carried out "a series of extremely violent sexual offences in circumstances which consisted of her false imprisonment over a period of time".

The judge said Hearne's only mitigating factor was his plea of guilty.

At a sitting of the Court of Appeal last month, his lawyer argued that his mental state and the fact that he had no previous convictions should also have been taken into consideration. Barrister Roderick O'Hanlon said a report on Hearne's mental health had been submitted to the trial.

Mr O'Hanlon said the sentencing judge had disregarded the psychiatric history of Hearne.

While the appeal court said the trial judge had fallen into error in not taking into account that Hearne had no previous convictions, and that he had not considered how Hearne's mental state could affect his capacity to serve his sentence, it said it was satisfied that the judge gave a significant reduction from 15 years to 12 years for the mitigating factor of the guilty plea.

"In the final analysis, we are satisfied that whilst the judge fell into error, this did not result in an error of substance," said Judge Isobel Kennedy.

Irish Independent

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