Wednesday 13 November 2019

Court upholds life sentence of man convicted of raping four daughters

THE Court of Criminal Appeal has upheld the life sentence imposed on a man who raped four of his daughters over an 18-year period.

The three-judge court this morning ruled that sentencing judge Mr Justice Paul Carney was entitled to impose maximum sentence on the now 52-year-old man.

In December 2011 the man, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the victims, was jailed for life by Mr Justice Carney at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Castlebar, Co Mayo.

He had pleaded guilty after arraignment to sample counts of rape and child cruelty against four of his daughters over an 18 year period from January 1991 to December 2009. He had appealed against his sentence on the rape counts only. 

In handing down a life sentence, Mr Justice Carney said he had taken in to consideration a threat made by the man to one of his daughters, whereby he told her that no matter how long a sentence he got he would get out of prison, find her and kill her.

Counsel for the applicant, Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, had argued that in imposing sentence, Mr Justice Carney remarked that a life sentence was not only warranted but was the only mechanism available to give the victims the support and reassurance they needed.

He submitted it was very clear that this was the driving force behind Mr Justice Carney’s decision to impose a life sentence.

Mr Hartnett told the court that the majority of the judgement was addressed to giving support to the victims, which is not a factor that can be taken in to consideration and should not become the “dynamic factor” in imposing the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

He told the court that the man had pleaded guilty and such a plea, except in very exceptional circumstances, should be taken as a mitigating factor.

It was also argued that the sentencing judge failed to take adequate account of the dysfunctional background of the man and his alcohol abuse problems.

Mr Hartnett submitted there had been a very significant error in principle and the trial judge seemed to impose sentence on the basis that reassurance should be given to the victims.

Counsel for the State, Mr Paul Burns SC, had said there was no error in principle, and the court should note it was agreed by both parties that the offending was at the top of the scale and it was “very hard” to envisage any sort of offending that could have been worse.

He said Mr Justice Carney did deal with the plea of guilty, which was entered late and was the only possible mitigating factor put forward in the case.

Mr Burns said the threat made by the man to kill the victim was credible and was an exceptional matter that the court was entitled to take in to account.

In its written judgement, the Court of Criminal Appeal said it was not satisfied that that the trial judge fell in to the error of imposing an impermissible sentence for the purposes solely of protecting against future crimes.

Mr Justice Carney, the court said, was entitled to take in to account the very serious and credible threats made by the man to his victim.

The court was of the view that any mitigation which might derive from background or substance abuse could not possible outweigh the exceptional nature of the offences themselves.

The court found that the mitigating factors were not of a sufficiently weighty nature as would have precluded a sentencing judge from imposing the maximum sentence given the “horrific and exceptional” nature of the crimes.

Accordingly, the court said it would dismiss the appeal.

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