Saturday 20 July 2019

Man ordered to pay €200,000 to niece over alleged oral rape

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A man has been ordered by the High Court to pay his niece €200,000 in compensation for allegedly raping her as a child.

Although the DPP decided not to pursue charges against the man, the court found on the balance of probabilities he had orally raped her when she was 13.

The man, who denied the sex attack and an earlier alleged rape when she was just six ever occurred, intends to appeal the ruling by Ms Justice Bronagh O'Hanlon.

Details of the harrowing case were outlined in a judgment published this week.

The now 30-year-old woman sued her uncle over the impact the alleged sex attacks had on her. She claimed she ended up suffering from a range of issues, including stress, anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, persistent tiredness, flashbacks, migraines, abdominal pains and stomach problems.

The first attack was alleged to have occurred during a sleepover at her uncle's house in Dublin in 1994 when she woke to find him on top of her.

She said she did not talk to anyone afterwards as she was terrified.

The second incident was alleged to have occurred when she was 13 in 2002 while she and her brother were staying with their uncle, who by then lived in a different county.

She alleged he orally raped her after she went for a lie down because she had pains in her stomach.

Her brother gave evidence of walking into the bedroom as the oral rape was happening. He was eight at the time.

He claimed he was punched in the chest by his uncle and told not to mention to anyone what he had seen.

The court heard that after the second alleged rape the then teenage girl felt she had done something wrong and that she was damaged.

It was April 2007 before she told her parents about the second alleged incident, by which time she was in college. She also made a report to gardaí.

The court heard that in February 2008 she remembered the earlier incident and eventually reported it to gardaí in November of that year.

At one point she dropped out of college due to stress and anxiety. She said she found herself being overwhelmed and unable to sleep.

Part of the woman's case was that had she not suffered the alleged abuse, she would have got more points in her Leaving Certificate and got her preferred choice of studying to become either a doctor or a physiotherapist.

The uncle gave evidence to deny he ever touched, harmed or did anything to his niece.

He said the DPP decided in January 2008 not to prosecute him.

The court heard the woman was examined by Dr Paul McQuaid, the clinical director of the Child Guidance Clinic in the Mater Hospital.

Dr McQuaid concluded there was no debate about whether or not she was sexually abused as a teenager in 2002. He said this event could have triggered her memory of the earlier abuse and resulted in it coming to her in flashbacks.

Ms Justice O'Hanlon found the abuse had serious overhanging consequences for the woman, posing real difficulties for her to live a normal life.

Awarding the woman €200,000 against her uncle, the judge found, on the balance of probabilities, the oral rape in 2002 had occurred and that this triggered a recovered memory of the 1994 attack.

Irish Independent

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