Monday 20 November 2017

Man jailed for sex assault of schoolgirl (13)

Tom Tuite

A MAN who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old schoolgirl was jailed for two years yesterday.

Leo Forde was found guilty at Donegal Circuit Court of three counts of sex assault on the girl in a school shelter.

He was the fifth man to be sentenced for sex crimes against the victim, who is now aged 20.

Forde, an apartment maintenance manager in Limerick but who was living in Rathnenney, Laghey, Co Donegal, at the time of the offences, was convicted of sexual assaults on three consecutive nights in September 2003. He was 19 at the time.

Earlier, Judge Gerard Griffin ordered him to be placed on the sex offenders' register and remanded him in custody until yesterday. The judge had adjourned the case from Friday last to consider sentencing.

In an impact statement read to the court last week, the victim said she "felt robbed" of her childhood.

"I live in hope that I will look back on this day and feel that my pain has been worthwhile," she said. She added that at the age of 13 she "just didn't know how to say no".

She said she had taken drugs and "would take anything that would block out the reality of my life".

"I hated my life, I wanted to die," she also wrote in her victim impact statement.

Yesterday, Forde, who had 32 previous convictions dating back to 2004, which included public-order offences but also discharging a firearm, appeared at the Circuit Court at the Criminal Courts of Justice complex in Dublin for sentencing.


Judge Griffin imposed three concurrent three-year sentences, with 12 months suspended in each of them.

Forde signed his bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for three years and to co-operate with the Probation and Welfare Service after his release.

His victim was not present at the sentencing hearing, during which Judge Griffin praised the garda investigation and care workers. "I must commend the actions of gardai, in particular Garda Liam Feeney in detecting these offences at such an early stage," he said. "And also the victim's care workers who looked after her so well."

Judge Griffin said Forde needed to get treatment for alcohol addiction and education for his literacy problems while in custody. He also said the defendant would need to co-operate with the Probation and Welfare Service following his release.

Forde admitted having sex with the girl, but claimed he believed she was 17 years of age at the time.

But the jury at Donegal Circuit Court accepted the evidence of the victim and investigating officer Gda Feeney, who said the girl was always honest about her age.

During the trial, Judge Griffin told the jury that the main point for them to decide was who they believed in relation to the issue of the girl's age.

During the trial, prosecution counsel Eileen O'Leary told the jury there was no allegation that the defendant had forced himself on the girl. She also said the girl's consent to sex could not be a defence because she was under 15 years of age at the time.

Forde, who was a father of one at the time of the offences, met the girl in a cafe a few weeks after he had moved back to Ireland from England in 2003.

Irish Independent

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