Sunday 24 June 2018

'Dangerous and predatory' man (70) described as 'unsafe' for children to be around has jail term cut

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

A 70-year-old man with a “remarkable” history of sexual offending, described as “dangerous” and “unsafe” for children to be around, has had his six year jail term for abusing an autistic boy cut on appeal.

The UK citizen, who cannot be identified to protect the victim's identity, had pleaded guilty to one count of sexually assaulting the boy in a rural town in Co Mayo in April 2015.

Judge Rory McCabe sentenced him to six years imprisonment on February 15, 2017.

The man successfully appealed his sentence today with the Court of Appeal holding that some further reduction ought to have been incorporated into his sentence in order to incentivise rehabilitation and to encourage him to treat children “with the respect that they deserve”. Accordingly, the court suspended the final 15 months of a six year sentence on condition he participate in a sex offender's program and be of good behaviour.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the man had approached an 11-year-old autistic boy who lived in the area and was out playing on the road with his go-cart.

He offered the boy €25 if he would meet him in a nearby lane way where the assault occurred.

The boy was paid the promised €25 which he used to buy food for him and his mother from a fast-food restaurant. When his mother asked him where the money came from, the boy told her what had happened.

During garda interviews, the man persisted in answering “no comment” and refused to sign the memorandum of interview. However, when it came before the courts initially, he pleaded guilty.

Mr Justice Mahon said the victim was greatly disturbed by the assault perpetrated on him. The incident also greatly impacted the boy's mother leading her to over-protect him with the consequence that his freedom to go outside and play was restricted. He had previously been diagnosed with Autism and ADHD.

Mr Justice Mahon said the man's previous record of sexual offending, and the length of time over which those offences were perpetrated, was “remarkable in this court's experience”.

His record of offending, committed exclusively in the UK, included convictions for indecent exposure, indecent assault, gross indecency and taking a child without lawful authorisation. He spent approximately three years in prison in the UK in the period between 1975 and 1995.

The sentencing judge described him as “predatory” and “dangerous” adding that children were “unsafe in his presence”.

Mr Justice Mahon said the sentencing judge's view on the level of threat posed by the man to children was shared by the Court of Appeal.

He said the offence was perpetrated on a vulnerable child which made him an “easy victim”. Because of his vulnerability, the true affect of what happened to him may be difficult to ascertain, if ever.

In mitigation, he said the man, a UK national, had lived in Ireland for 14 years and with the exception of this offence, had a clean record for approximately 22 years, which was not an “inconsiderable factor”.

Furthermore, he was main carer for his significantly disabled wife of a number of years.

Mr Justice Mahon said the headline sentence of eight years was justified given the man's prior record of broadly similar offending.

However, some further reduction ought to have been incorporated into the sentence in order to incentivise rehabilitation and to encourage him to treat children “with the respect that they deserve”.

A Prison Governor's Report found him to be a “model prisoner” prepared to participate in a sex offenders program and he was due to be assessed for same shortly.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would reimpose a six year sentence but would suspend the final 15 months.

The man was required to enter into a good behaviour bond, undertake not to go back to the boy's rural town and to participate in a sex offender's program while in prison. He undertook to be so bound.

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