The victims were under 10 years old when the abuse started and the attacks continued for a decade
A hospital groundsman convicted five years ago of the repeated rape of his wife's two sons can be named for the first time this week after the lifting of a court gagging order.
In 2015 Paul Gregory (56) of Lucky Brook house, Cronroe, Ashford, Co Wicklow pleaded guilty to 205 counts of rape and sexual assault of his wife's two sons at his Co Wicklow home. The victims were under 10 years old when the abuse started in 1993 and the attacks continued for a decade.
Gregory had previously worked as a groundsman at Newcastle Psychiatric Hospital and was suspended when the allegations first emerged.
The Central Criminal Court heard that in some of the attacks he used a vacuum cleaner nozzle to sexually assault the child. One victim told his trial that he felt like he was abused “millions of times”.
In March 2016 Mr Justice Tony Hunt imposed a prison term of 21 years, with the final five years suspended.
At that sentencing, the victims, who are now adults, told the court they wished to waive their statutory anonymity so their step-father can be named publicly.
However, Mr Justice Hunt placed a stay on the waiving of the anonymity in order to avoid publication of anything that might prejudice trials that were due to take place at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court.
Those cases had both completed by last June and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) then made an application to Justice Hunt seeking to have this stay lifted so that Gregory could be identified.
A number of court appearances followed with Gregory changing his legal team at one point. At one hearing, Paul Murray SC, for the DPP, suggested Gregory was using delaying tactics.
At another hearing, Gregory told Mr Justice Hunt that he would be in danger if his identity is published. He said he didn't think “it would be the best thing” for him right now and said he is currently in therapy.
Mr Justice Hunt told him on that occasion that the anonymity and any waiving of it was there to benefit the victims.
In a subsequent hearing Patrick Gageby SC, defending, told Mr Justice Hunt that the Court of Appeal decision in an application by RTÉ and others against a High Court order preventing the identification of a woman who killed her child may have some relevance for his client.
He said that if the Court of Appeal holds that section 252 of the Children Act “survives the death of the child” it might lead to an interpretation of the law that also prevents the identification of victims of child abuse. This would prevent Gregory being named because of the familial connection.
The subsequent Court of Appeal did indeed interpret section 252 at extending past the death or “ageing out” of child victims but Justice Hunt said the section still allowed the court to dispense with the reporting prohibition where the court “is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so in the interests of the child”.
Paul Murray SC, for the DPP, told the court that the two complainants had again confirmed that they are aware they would be identifiable if the convicted man is named and “they are absolutely willing to undergo that”.
“They were kept in silence for so many years and they now wish the curtains to lift,” he said.
Mr Justice Hunt said he was satisfied that he should lift these prohibitions newly imposed by the interpretation of section 252.
He said that “the act of a victim in publicly speaking out about their experiences can assist the victim in recovery from the effects of the crime” and can also encourage others in their position to come forward.
He accordingly made an order lifting all reporting restrictions in the case, saying he considers this was “in the public interest”. But he placed a 28-day stay on his order pending an application to the Court of Appeal by the defendant.
No such appeal has being made and that deadline has passed, meaning that Gregory can finally be identified.
In his November ruling Mr Justice Hunt said that, following the Court of Appeal judgment, there is now a question as to whether section 252 “is fit for the presumed purpose… in the case of deceased children”.
“Any such difficulty is undoubtedly capable of swift and straightforward resolution in the appropriate forum,” he said.