Saturday 21 July 2018

Man avoids jail after pleading guilty to defiling a child

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Stock image

Sarah-Jane Murphy

A Limerick man has avoided jail after pleading guilty to the defilement of a child in a bedroom in her mother's house while she was studying for her Junior Certificate.

The man (20), who cannot be named to preserve the anonymity of the girl, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to one count of defilement at an address in Longford on June 23, 2013.

The court heard that the defendant, who was aged 16 at the time, and the victim, who was 15 years old, had been exchanging text messages on the evening in question.

An investigating garda told Jonathan Kilfeather SC, prosecuting, that the girl was home alone while her mother was out at a prayer meeting.

The defendant called over, and the pair watched TV together.

“He then followed the victim upstairs where they had sexual intercourse,” the garda said.

The girl did not tell her mother about the incident until some two years later, and they reported it to gardaí, who launched an investigation.

In October 2017, the man pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to one count of rape, and a jury was empanelled to hear his trial, but hours later he entered a guilty plea to a count of defilement.

Sentencing the man, Mr Justice Paul Butler said he found the victim impact statement very moving, and said he was “profoundly happy to see she is now in a relationship and has a young baby”.

In her statement, the victim said the defendant had been a good friend prior to that evening and she never thought he was capable of hurting her.

“I was afraid nobody would believe me, but the memory of what happened just kept haunting me. One night, everything got so much that I tried to overdose,” she said.

The girl said certain songs cause her to relive the memory of the incident, describing it as something that would never leave her.

“My dignity was destroyed,” she said.

Mr Justice Butler said he accepted the veracity of what the victim said in her statement, but he wasn't entitled to punish the accused for rape, as he was now dealing with the offence of defilement.

“In my view, the maximum sentence for defilement is for cases where there is a far greater age difference, and or/if the defendant is a repeat offender,” he said.

He said the Oireachtas had decided the maximum sentence for defilement is a five year term of imprisonment.

Justice Butler said in this case the defendant and the girl were “effectively peers” and that nothing would be served by jailing the man.

“This case differs from one where the man is in his late 20s and the victim is a 14-year-old,” he said.

John Paul Short SC, defending, said his client's mother died in 2009 when he was aged just 12.

He said the defendant had acknowledged his guilt in relation to the defilement charge, was now in full time employment and was rebuilding his life.

He has no previous convictions.

Mr Justice Butler sentenced the man to two years imprisonment, and fully suspended the sentence. He said the defendant must attend one-on-one sessions with a probation officer to address the nature of his offence and also attend group therapy sessions.

“Also, the man must have no contact either directly or indirectly with the victim in this case,” he said.

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