Monday 11 December 2017

'I hope his guilt tortures and abuses him as he did me'

Simone Flanagan from Clonmel photographed with her mother Trish at Clonmel court. Photo: Mary Browne
Simone Flanagan from Clonmel photographed with her mother Trish at Clonmel court. Photo: Mary Browne

Conor Kane

A woman who was sexually assaulted several times by her father when she was aged between 10 and 14 years had her “childhood taken from her” by a person she should have been able to trust, a judge has said.

Thomas Ryan (58), with an address at Marlfield, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, was sentenced today to five years in prison after pleading guilty to 10 sample counts of sexually abusing his daughter, Simone Flanagan, between 2003 and 2008. The first charge, from 14-11-2003, related to the day she turned 10.

Judge Thomas Teehan suspended the last 18 months of the sentence.

Ms Flanagan, who is now 22, waived her right to anonymity at Clonmel Circuit Court because she didn’t want her father “to get away with what he did, having ruined her life,” prosecuting barrister David Humphries told the court.

Thirteen of the incidents of sexual assault with which Ryan was originally charged allegedly happened at the family home at Wilderness Grove, Clonmel, between November 14 of 2003 and November 14 of 2006, the court heard, while seven more were at Brook Crescent, Clonmel.

The abuse perpetrated on Ms Flanagan included digital penetration and being forced to masturbate her father “to ejaculation,” Mr Humphries said. “The incidents were accompanied by a direction to the complainant that she not tell other people.”

The accused apologised in court in December, when the facts of the case were initially heard, and also in writing to his victim.

A victim impact report by Ms Flanagan outlined how she still couldn’t come to terms with what her father, Thomas Ryan, had done to her. “Things that, as his daughter, were unimaginable. A father is meant to protect and care unconditionally for his child and be a role model, but I did not have that luxury. Instead I received no childhood, womanhood coming too fast, confusion and not knowing what I had done wrong to deserve the treatment, abuse and violation my dad committed on me.”

She said there was no answer from her father which would be sufficient for her questions.

“From when this started, my dad told me this was normal. I was innocent growing up. It took me a long time to realise it wasn’t and by then it was too late. How could I stop this? I asked myself that many times growing up, crying in bed, scared and petrified, horrified of when he would approach, touch and abuse me next. Feelings and emotions that as a young child I should never have to face. The feeling of being alone, lost as a young child haunted me by day and night on top of sleepless nights and flashbacks which are a permanent reminder to this very day and into my adulthood, something that I will carry into my future.”

She said the issue has affected her friendships, family, “and most of all me”. Her mother and brother were with her in court and she said that, in her eyes, “I do not have a father” and will never be able to forgive him for the abuse, sexual and emotional, she suffered at his hands. “I hope his guilt horrifies, tortures and abuses him as he did to me and for that I do not apologise.”

She has suffered from depression and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, felt “lost and abandoned” in school and has since moved to Waterford where she is now in college.

“No justice or sentencing will erase the memories of my abuse and the trauma suffered in those years. If anything, those years will be my life sentence.”

Judge Teehan said there a number of aggravating factors, the worst of which was the impact the abuse had on the victim. “She has had her childhood taken from her and that is an appalling thing to do to a human being,” he said.

“This young woman was entitled to her childhood, to her girlhood, and they were taken from her by a person in whom she must have felt, until these things started to happen, that she could trust. A person to whom she could look up and a person who ought to have been a bulwark in her life, instead of being what was an opportunistic predator.”

Mitigating factors included the plea of guilty, a statement of admission made by Thomas Ryan to gardaí and his apology.

The judge noted there had been no contact between the defendant and his daughter, that he left the family home and hadn’t had contact with his wife since Ms Flanagan reported the crimes to gardaí.

After imposing sentence and ordering Thomas Ryan to never allow himself be alone with a person under 18 upon his release in prison, Judge Teehan wished Simone Flanagan well for the future.

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