Sunday 21 January 2018

Elderly man who sexually assaulted his intellectually disabled daughter 17 years ago given time to organise his medication ahead of jail term

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Sonya McLean and Fiona Ferguson

An elderly man who sexually assaulted his intellectually disabled adult daughter 17 years ago has been given time to organise his medication prior to beginning a jail term.

The 75-year-old man, who committed the offence after calling to her home drunk, now suffers from a range of medical issues outlined in a report prepared for the court. He suffers cognitive difficulties due to his alcoholism and his mobility is restricted due to other illnesses.

The man, who cannot be named to protect his daughter's identity, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexual assaulting the then 34-year-old at her Dublin flat on October 23, 1999. He has one previous conviction from 1989 for forgery.

Defence counsel, Keith Spencer BL, submitted it was a single incident induced by alcohol and that his client was extremely remorseful.

The man told gardaí on arrest that he hadn't much recollection of the attack. He said if she said he did it, he must have because she “doesn't tell lies”.

Judge Melanie Greally acceded to an application from the defence to allow the man time to get his medication, some of which need to be injected, prepared for going into custody.

Judge Greally indicated she would impose a three year sentence with the final 18 months suspended. She said she would formally finalise the matter on Friday and the man would go into custody then.

She said that the offence was “a monstrous breech of trust and a gross violation of the relationship between parent and child.” She noted that the victim was already vulnerable and had been making efforts to overcome her difficulties.

During the sentence hearing earlier this month the court heard the man said he called to his daughter's flat that night because he was “well oiled” and his girlfriend didn't like it when he came home drunk.

The woman told specialist garda interviewers when she reported the crime years later that she was certain of the date because she remembered she was wearing a pink stripped top and her cat was neutered that day.

The court heard that the woman's parents were long separated. Her mother and some of her sisters were in court to support her, while one of her sisters was present with her father and acted as a character witness for him.

There were also letters from some of the man's other daughters handed into court on his behalf.

Detective Garda Ann McGowan told Fionnuala O'Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that the woman told specialist interviewers that she let her father into flat and he held her too tight before he put his hands down the inside of her pants and touched her breasts.

He then “took out his thing” from his trousers and later lay on top of her.

She said she tried to push him off her but he was too heavy. She was afraid he would never get off her. She eventually knocked him off the bed and she was worried that he had hit his head off “a metal thing around the fireplace”.

He slept there and left the following day. She described feeling “manky and dirty”.

She was worried that she was going to end up pregnant but she later told officers that her father only “rubbed his thing off my leg”.

The now 51-year-old woman read her victim impact statement. She said writing it made her cry.

She was worried that nobody would believe her and found it difficult to talk to gardaí for that reason.

“They will believe me now because they know I am telling the truth,” the woman said.

“It was like my life was taken away from me and it was like it was my fault that this happened to me but it was not my fault. It was my father's fault,” the woman continued.

“I hope now to achieve my dreams. I want to take control back on my life. I hope someday my life will be good and will bring me happiness and peace. When court is over I hope justice will be done,” the woman concluded.

Mr Spencer told the woman that her father wished to offer “his heartfelt apology for what happened”. He also said that the victim's sister, who was supporting their father in court, wanted to be part of her life but she felt she needed to look out for their father too.

The man told gardaí he was so ashamed of himself and there was not a day went by that he didn't think of what he did.

Mr Spencer asked the court to accept that his client pleaded guilty at an early stage before his defence team had received all the evidence.

He said the man was active in his grandchildren's lives and handed in a number of letters including some from his other daughters.

The man's other daughter told the court that she was always very happy as a child when her father was around and sad when he was not there.

She said he was never violent towards kids and described him as warm.

The victim told the court that she felt ashamed of herself of how the assault broke up her family.

She said afterwards she felt she had no control over her life. She stayed in her flat because she was afraid of meeting her father and she didn't socialise with her friends or join any new clubs.

She said suffered nightmares and flashbacks and felt angry, taking it out on her family and friends.

She described feeling alone, vulnerable, having low self-esteem, having mood swings and suffering anxiety after the assault.

She said she had brothers and sisters and she wondered why her father had never abused them. “It made me think it's because I have an intellectual disability”.

She said October every year was a bad time because she got very agitated when all the memories came back.

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