Thursday 23 November 2017

Dearbhail McDonald: Justice has been served for these brave little girls

Justice Paul Carney
Justice Paul Carney
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

Mr Justice Paul Carney could not bring himself to repeat the facts of the case before passing sentence. CollinsPAUL Carney did not actually say that the rape of two young girls last year was the worst case ever.

The country's most senior criminal law judge did not need to.

Such was the horrific nature of the attack on the two young friends, he could not bring himself to repeat the facts before passing sentence.

"For the past 20 years I have refrained from saying this is the worst case ever because doing so has always prompted a worse case the following week," said Mr Justice Carney as he handed down two life terms to the 30-year-old man.

It is hard to imagine a scenario more brutal than that relayed yesterday in the Central Criminal Court.

At times, it felt as if Judge Carney was the only person not crying in courtroom number six at the Criminal Courts of Justice.

Judge Carney maintained his composure as he watched several members of the "hard boiled" press corps, this one included, wipe away tears as the evidence of the attacks was read out by prosecutor Patrick McGrath SC.

One colleague dropped her pen in despair and placed her head on her hands.

It was a tough day too for defence counsel Martin Giblin SC, tasked with defending the indefensible.

Mr Giblin was anxious to stress that his duties, representing the man and offering reasons why his sentence should be mitigated, should not be interpreted in any way as diminishing the seriousness of the offences.

Mr Giblin said the offences were extremely serious – as serious as any that had come before the court. He did not want anything he said to be understood as diminishing the seriousness of the offences or the impact on the girls and their families.

The parents and the families were simply crushed by the sentence hearing.

The man's actions have led them far from the safety of their homes, and the innocence of their children's lives, and transported them to the heart of an alienating, inexplicable nightmare.

"Our lives changed forever that day," said the mother of the nine-year-old in a victim impact statement read out in court.

"I feel I am living a nightmare I can't wake up from . . . inside, I am slowly dying".

The father of the six-year-old was only an arm's reach away from the man who defiled his baby girl as he walked past the dock to testify on his daughter's behalf.

"We have all been touched by evil," he told the court, breaking down several times during the forceful delivery of his victim impact statement.

The truth is that we have all been touched by evil.

The only comfort we can draw from this tragedy is that rape, one of the most serious crimes in our criminal calendar, can and does attract mandatory life terms where the circumstances require it.

It is true that we need more consistency generally in rape and sexual assault cases, but justice has been served for those two brave little girls.

Irish Independent

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