Friday 15 December 2017

Man jailed for 'intense' sexual abuse of cousin (6) loses appeal over 'severity of sentence'

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A 57-year-old Dublin man jailed for the “intense” sexual abuse of a young relative while she was being cared for in his home, has lost an appeal against the severity of his eight year sentence for indecent assault.

The man, who can not be identified to protect his victim's identity, was convicted by a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury of 41 counts of indecent assault of the girl at his family home between 1983 and 1986. She was aged between six and nine at the time of the abuse while he was aged between 24 and 26.

The man was sentenced to eight years imprisonment with the final year suspended by Judge Gerard O'Brien on February 8, 2016.

He lost an appeal against conviction in May and lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence today.

Giving judgment in the three-judge Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the man had stood trial on a 50 count indictment for indecently assaulting the victim each month while being minded by the man's mother at their home.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the victim gave evidence that the man would have her go to the bathroom and sexually assault her.

She said similar activity took place in bedrooms and an outside shed.

She said there were occasions when he grabbed her sexually.

Mr Justice Birmingham said there was evidence the victim, who was the man's second cousin, engaged in self harm as a teenager and experienced significant psychological damage. She has been on medication for depression for most of her life.

The sentencing judge saw the aggravating factors as the psychological harm caused to the victim, the age disparity and the systemic nature of the abuse.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the case was “robustly contested” and the only clear mitigating factor identified by the sentencing judge was that the man had no previous convictions of any type whatsoever.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the Court of Appeal accepted the sentence was a severe one.

Undoubtedly, this was a “very bad case involving intense abuse of a very young child over a prolonged period” which resulted in “very serious” long-term damage to the victim. The case was always going to have to be met by a long sentence, he said.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the sentencing court may have decided to impose a sentence somewhat less than the one imposed but the Court of Appeal could not conclude that the sentence fell outside the range available.

Dismissing his conviction appeal in May, Mr Justice Birmingham said the uncertainty as to dates was largely dissipated by the victims response to cross examination.

He said there was nothing present in the case that would bring it within the exceptional category of cases which would not be allowed to be considered by a jury.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the jury deliberated and returned a verdict a Thursday October 29. The significance of the date was that the Annual National Conference of the Judiciary was due to take place the following day and the jury was told that if their deliberations were not concluded, the matter would go back to the following Monday.

The jury returned at 8.48pm with a majority guilty verdicts of 10-2 on some counts and not guilty on others.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court was satisfied that no undue pressure was placed on the jury. The option of sitting on or returning on Monday was put before them and they chose to sit on.

When it was felt the hour was too late, the jury were brought back. The jury asked for a few more minutes and then returned verdicts.

It was clear, Mr Justice Birmingham said that the trial judge and both counsel were "solicitous for the position of the jury" and were anxious to avoid a situation of pressure being placed on them.

He said the Court of Appeal was quite satisfied that the trial judge dealt with the matter in am entirely appropriate way.

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