Thursday 14 December 2017

Jail for man who raped 11-year-old girl during blindfold games

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Stock Picture

Declan Brennan and Isabel Hayes

A Kildare man who raped an 11-year-old girl during blindfold games when he was aged 15 has been sentenced to four years in jail, with the final two years suspended.

The now 23-year-old, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, set up blindfold games with the girl during which he would sexually assault her.

The victim told the Central Criminal Court that the abuse made her feel sick and that the abuser had a control over her which struck fear into her.

Hugh Hartnett SC, defending, previously urged Mr Justice Tony Hunt not to impose a custodial sentence, given that the man was only 15 when he carried out the offence and therefore a minor.

Mr Hartnett said that under the 2001 Children’s Act, “detention must be considered only as a last resort” when sentencing a legal juvenile.

On Monday, Mr Justice Hunt said it was clear the young age of the offender should be taken into account, along with the fact that he was clearly immature at the time. “I don't think he appreciated the significance and long-lasting damage he was inflicting by his reckless experimentation,” the judge said.

However he said the man had a “significant degree of knowledge and knowingness that he was doing wrong and he was doing serious wrong”.

“Unfortunately I have come to the view that even with his immaturity and young age, there was deliberate planning of a continuous campaign of abuse against this young girl,” the judge said.

“There is a world of difference between a 15-year-old and an 11-year-old when it comes to sexual matters,” he added.

The man pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault in a shed at his home in Co Kildare on dates in October and December 2008. He also pleaded guilty to oral rape at his home in April 2009 and in a woodland near his home in May 2009.

After his arrest in 2013 the man admitted the offending. He told gardaí that “it was just an experiment” and that he had wondered what it would be like.

He said he was very sorry. He has no other convictions. The victim, now aged 19, said the abuse took away her childhood and destroyed her self-confidence.

Handing down a four-year sentence, with the final two years suspended, Mr Justice Hunt said he would have imposed a longer sentence had the man not been a minor at the time of the offence.

“I'm satisfied the accused's young age and his associated lack of maturity and judgment significantly reduced his culpability,” he said.

He noted the man was remorseful, had completely rehabilitated himself, had never come to garda attention since and was highly unlikely to re-offend.

The man's family members cried and embraced him as he was taken into custody.

Additional Evidence

Mary Rose Gearty SC, prosecuting, previously told the court that the man had pleaded guilty to the four charges in July 2016 when his case was listed for trial but that an offer to plead guilty had been made previously.

She said that the pleas were accepted on the basis that the abuse took place more often than on four occasions listed in the charges.

A local garda told Ms Gearty that the victim was in the man's family home when he suggested they play a game.

He brought her to a shed and blindfolded her and put an item into her hands and told her to guess what it was. The court heard that he then put his genitals into the victim's hand.

When she removed her blindfold the man had no object in his hand.

This happened another time but in 2009 the game changed one day when he sexually assaulted her after blindfolding her.

On another occasion the child was playing in a woods when the man took out a blindfold from his pocket and put it around the victim's eyes.

He then sexually assaulted her. She hit her head against a tree and ran away crying silently.

Ms Gearty said that while the victim told gardai in 2013 that she was afraid to come forward she also said that he had never threatened her.

In her victim impact report the girl said that thinking about the abuse was still painful for her and still affected her in her day to day life.

“My chance to be a child was completely ripped away, along with my innocence. I went to bed thinking to myself why is this happening to me, what did I do,” she said.

She said the abuse had destroyed her self confidence, adding she didn't know “how anyone can do this to a small vulnerable child”.

Mr Hartnett said his client had instructed him to offer an apology to the victim. He said this was an exceptional case which warranted a non-custodial sentence because of the offender's young age, his admission of guilt, his sense of remorse and his otherwise good character.

Mr Justice Hunt described the defence submission as a very difficult one to make.

Counsel added that his client's remorse was genuine and was demonstrated by his fall into depression and suicidal ideation. He said the man had sought counselling and that a report by a psychotherapist characterised him as having been “a very immature adolescent”.

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