Saturday 17 March 2018

Man with 'remarkable disability' jailed for raping seven-year-old nephew

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Conor Gallagher and Sonya McLean

A “remarkably disabled” Cork man who raped his seven-year-old nephew multiple times while living in the child's family home has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

The 27-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted following an eight-day trial on three counts of rape on dates between 2009 and 2011 in a Cork home. He had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court. The child was between seven and nine years old at the time.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey said he had taken into account the difference in age between the man and the child and the gross betrayal of trust in that he had raped the boy after his sister, the boy's mother, provided him with a home.

He noted that “at all times the boy was scared of his uncle and fearful of what he may do to his other siblings”.

The judge accepted that the man had significant intellectual difficulties but said “that doesn't deprive him of moral culpability...he knew what he was doing was wrong”.

Mr Justice Coffey suspended the final six months of the seven-year term on condition that he engage with a sex offender's treatment programme while in custody.

He also ordered that he undergo seven years post-release supervision after noting the man was considered as at a “high risk of re-offending” after he previously refused to engage with the Probation Services.

Defence counsel, Elizabeth O'Connell SC, said the accused suffered from “a remarkable level of disability” and was in the bottom percentile of intelligence among the general population. He was in the bottom 0.2 percent for his age group, she said.

Ms O'Connell said the man's intellectual disability could reduce his moral culpability for the crimes even if it didn't affect his legal culpability.

Prosecuting counsel, Marjorie Farrelly SC, said that at no stage had the man's condition been linked to his offending and that there was no evidence that he didn't know the difference between right and wrong.

The child's mother wrote a victim impact statement on the family's behalf saying she never expected her brother to betray them like this.

“We would now like to see justice done and for (the accused) to suffer like we did,” she wrote.

The court heard the accused lived with his sister and helped out around the house, including some child minding.

The child first spoke up about the rapes after his mother gave him a talk about “stranger danger”. When he made the rape allegations he was brought to the local garda station where he made a detailed statement covering multiple instances of rape.

During one incident he said the accused had taken him into a bedroom and raped him. He man also tied a bed sheet around his head so he couldn't see.

The boy said he was afraid to tell anyone about the abuse because he was worried the man would hurt or abuse somebody else.

The accused's defence counsel said he had an unhappy childhood and that his intellectual capacity offered “considerable mitigation.” She asked Mr Justice Coffey for as much leniency as possible.

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