Monday 11 December 2017

Man who raped girl (14) in a field as she walked to her friend’s house is jailed for ten years

Martin Stokes (24) was convicted after a 17 day trial during which he called the girl a liar and claimed that she was an enthusiastic consenting party.
Martin Stokes (24) was convicted after a 17 day trial during which he called the girl a liar and claimed that she was an enthusiastic consenting party.

By Conor Gallagher

A Westmeath man has been jailed for ten years for raping a 14-year-old girl in a field as she walked to her friend’s house.

Martin Stokes (24) was convicted on Tuesday after a 17 day trial during which he called the girl a liar and claimed that she was an enthusiastic consenting party.

Stokes was linked to the crime through his DNA and about ten witnesses who saw him in the area at the time. He initially denied even knowing the girl but when the case came to trial for a second time he claimed that he had consensual sex with her.

In his last case before retirement, Mr Justice Carroll Moran, said that in his 18 years on the bench he had never seen such “obvious mendacity.” He said he wonders what effect Stokes’ lies had on the jury who might otherwise have acquitted him.

“If he continues to protest his innocence he cannot be surprised when no one believes him because of his history of lying,” the judge said.

Mr Justice Moran imposed a 12 year sentence with the final two years suspended on strict conditions. He ordered that Stokes has no contact with the victim or her family including by social media and that he registers his address with gardaí on his release.

Stokes initially refused to enter an oath to comply with these conditions, saying: “I’m not signing no bond. Give me the two (years) on top.”

After a short discussion with his counsel he agreed to enter the oath but added: “I swear on this bible that I’m appealing this.” As he was led away he pointed at gardaí and said he’d see them again.

During the trial the defence used posts from the girl’s Facebook account and texts messages about her sexual history in an attempt to disprove her story. They presented one Facebook post by the girl which read “can’t believe I lost my best friend over a lad” which was uploaded after the rape and referred to a fight she had with her friend over a boy from their peer group.

Over the course of two and a half days of cross-examination, defence counsel Padraig Dwyer SC put text messages to the victim in which she describes performing sex acts with a boy.

She denied that she had carried out the acts, saying “It looks like that but I didn’t do it. Maybe I was trying to act cool to my friends at the time and I was silly and stupid.”

The prosecution told the jury that these messages were part of the “unreality of social media”.

Pauline Walley SC said: “You should bear in mind that human beings have always lied about sexual experience. In my days the lies were about what boys you kissed.”

At the sentencing hearing today Ms Walley submitted that the cross-examination was an ordeal for the girl and that Stokes had characterised her as a liar.

In her victim impact statement, which she read to the court herself, the girl said she suffered “a horrific sexual attack”. She said she now suffers from panic attacks, anxiety and depression and that she started self-harming after the rape. She also has suicidal thoughts.

She said her teenage years had been taken from her and that she and her family had to move towns because of the rape.

She said she has no interest in dating men and doesn’t like going anywhere alone. The court also heard she received a threat on Facebook relating to the rape but that this wasn’t from Stokes.

During the trial Stokes had several outbursts as he sat in the defendant’s area. At the sentencing hearing he appeared to be getting highly agitated until the judge allowed his father to sit with him in an effort to calm him down.

In her submission to the court the girl said that one of Stokes’ outbursts during the trial had caused her to have a panic attack.

The prosecution told Mr Justice Moran that the victim would like the accused to be named publicly.

The defence argued that this would have a negative effect on Stokes’ large family but the judge said this wasn’t a good enough reason to not identify him.

Stokes of Corkhill, Kinnegad pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to defilement of a child under the age of 15 at a location in Westmeath on June 3, 2011. He also denied raping the woman, and two counts of sexual assaulting her on the same occasion. He was found guilty on all charges.

The victim testified during the trial that she met Stokes on the road as she was walking from her home to her friend's house. She knew him from around and he persuaded her to go into a field with him where he then raped her, she said.

Sergeant Michelle Baker told Ms Walley that when the victim tried to resist Stokes told her he wasn’t going to stop until he had finished. Afterwards he went down a separate road as the girl walked home. He had not used a condom and the girl later worried that she was pregnant.

The next day Stokes called to the girl’s family home and, as a pretext for contacting her, he asked for a number for her uncle who sometimes gave him casual work.

Stokes was spotted in the area again the next day looking for the girl. Her parents became aware of this and demanded to know if she had been hanging around with him. Shortly afterwards the girl said she had been raped and gardaí were called.

Stokes was arrested and denied knowing the girl or being in the area. DNA taken from the victim’s underwear later confirmed he had sex with her. During the trial he put it to the victim, through his counsel, that she was on top of him during sex, telling him to “go harder.” She denied this.

Counsel said Stokes’ left school early and did handy work around his area. He said he has a wife and son but has not seen them since he was charged.

Mr Dwyer added that he cannot offer an apology for the rape because Stokes doesn’t accept the verdict of the jury and intends to appeal.

He said that the rape wasn’t accompanied by gratuitous violence or threats and that it fell on the lower or middle part of the scale. He asked the judge to consider suspending part of the term to give his client “light at the end of the tunnel”.

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