Sunday 19 November 2017

Man who consistently raped younger sister jailed for one year 'because law stated he was too young to be guilty'

Criminal Courts of Justice
Criminal Courts of Justice

Sonya McLean

A man who as a 12-year-old consistently raped his sister has been jailed for a year because the law at the time states that a child under 14 years old cannot be guilty of rape.

Michael Hughes (57) of Cluain Beag, Nobber, Co Meath had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court last December to four counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault on dates between December 1971 and October 1973 at the family home they shared in Dublin.

His sister, Anne Marie Powney, who waived her right to anonymity, was aged between four and six at the time.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said at a hearing last January that the legislation that existed at the time of the offence meant that Hughes could not be convicted of rape as he was under the age of 14.

He allowed for the rape pleas to be set aside and sentenced him today on the four remaining indecent assault charges.

Mr Justice McCarthy said it was one of the “most harrowing” victim impact reports he had ever read.

“Sadly up to now she has not managed to recover from what happened her as a child and she still suffers,” the judge said before he added that the woman lives in constant fear everyday that Hughes would get her.

The judge said that the court could also only impose a maximum sentence of two years for the offences of indecent assault. He took into account Hughes' admissions of guilt and the fact that he was a child at the time before he jailed him for a year.

“I don't think he was not so young as to appreciate the seriousness of what he was doing,” Mr Justice McCarthy added.

The now 49-year-old woman read from her victim impact report at the sentence hearing last December, that she didn't feel like she had her “own identity because the abuse is so ingrained in me”.

“I've been in prison in my own body and mind. I can never get those years back,” the woman continued after commenting that her brother “walks around free”.

She said that as a child she was full of fear, afraid to go out and afraid to stay in. She felt school was the only safe place she could go to. She described wearing loads of clothes and hiding under beds, “but he always got to me. It became a waiting game. There was no escaping”.

She said she would never be able to forget the horrors of the abuse and she lived in constant fear every day that Hughes would get her.

“I've never know what a normal life is and never will,” the woman said before she added that the chances of that “ended the first day he raped me”.

Tara Burns SC, prosecuting, told the court that the man had pleaded guilty to sample counts and said the abuse occurred at least two or three times per week.

Garda Ciaran Campbell said that Hughes was a father of seven children and had no other convictions.

He agreed with Hugh Hartnett SC, defending, that the abuse came to the attention of the health authorities in 1994 when the Hughes made full admissions. At that stage the abuse had also been disclosed to their father.

The abuse was reported to the gardaí but Gda Campbell agreed Hughes was never interviewed because gardaí believed that the family didn't want to pursue it any further.

Mr Hartnett handed in two medical reports which stated that his client suffered from depression and had attempted suicide twice.

Counsel said that the abuse occurred 45 years ago and his client had never denied his involvement.

He asked the judge to take into account the fact that Hughes was a juvenile at the time and had indicated his remorse and regret.


The woman told gardaí that she remembered Hughes raping her while she was watching television at home and her mother was speaking to a neighbour across the street. He sexually assaulted her first after lifting her skirt before taking off her underwear and raping her.

The man told his then five-year-old sister that their father would kill her for not wearing her underwear before he put them in his pocket.

She recalled another incident when the family were celebrating another brother's wedding and Hughes forced her to perform oral sex on him. She vomited afterwards and was screaming for quite some time afterwards.

Ms Burns told the court the girl's mother slapped her afterwards for “acting up”.

She said Hughes would rape her while babysitting her and her other siblings, telling her sisters to remain downstairs while he took her up to his bedroom. She said in the room he would often sexually assault her and rape her.

The woman told gardaí that their mother would encourage her brother to help her with her homework. He would regularly sit her on his lap, move her underwear aside and rape her.

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