Sunday 16 December 2018

'Mum protected evil, coward dad who raped me - it's unbearable'

Jennifer Berry (43) at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin after her father, Oliver Berry (61) was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was previously convicted by a jury of 104 counts of rape and sexual assault of his daughter. Photo: Collins Courts
Jennifer Berry (43) at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin after her father, Oliver Berry (61) was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was previously convicted by a jury of 104 counts of rape and sexual assault of his daughter. Photo: Collins Courts
Oliver Berry (61) was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was previously convicted by a jury of 104 counts of rape and sexual assault of his daughter. Photo: Collins Courts

Sonya McLean

A woman who was regularly raped by her father while growing up found it "unbearable" her mother gave evidence on his behalf during the trial.

Oliver Berry (61), of Newtown Laws, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury of 104 counts of both raping and sexually assaulting her between December 1982 and December 1994.

He was yesterday sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Jennifer Berry (43) waived her right to anonymity so her father could be named in any reporting of the case.

Oliver Berry had pleaded not guilty to all offences and was convicted following a trial earlier this year. He has two previous convictions for minor offences.

He still maintains his innocence and Ms Berry's mother, who has since separated from Berry, supports him and gave evidence in his defence during the trial.

Ms Berry stated in her victim impact statement, read into the record by Dominic McGinn SC prosecuting, that the first time she was ever abused by her father he took something from her, "her innocence and childhood".

She said she found it "unbearable" to hear her mother giving evidence on her father's behalf during the trial.

"Instead of trying to protect me, she protected him. She turned her back on me. I can't understand how she could do this.

"I don't know what I did to deserve two parents like that," she said.

Ms Berry said she was in fear of her father. He told her that if she disclosed the abuse her siblings would be taken away and this was a big concern for her.

She said she couldn't concentrate well in school and she never went to college. She suffered panic attacks and depression from as far back as she could remember.

"I can't say for definite but maybe it would have been different if I had been supported as a child," she said.

Ms Berry described the behaviour of her father as the "actions of a coward, evil". She said he must be "in some parts a sick man because I can't think of how he could hurt me otherwise".

She referred to incidents of attempted suicide because of the abuse and said she thanked God that she is still alive.

"I have finally got justice after 35 years. I am now strong and able to fight. I am not weak anymore," Ms Berry added.

She said that she hoped she had saved at least one person from going through what she did by reporting her father to gardaí.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy had adjourned the case having first heard the evidence two weeks ago.

She noted Berry was 25 years old when he first abused his then seven-year-old daughter.

She said the first time he raped her, Jennifer didn't understand what had happened by "virtue of her youth".

Ms Justice Murphy said that a year when Berry was out of work, Jennifer was raped most days when she returned home from school for lunch.

On occasion when she refused to go home she was beaten up by Berry on her ultimate return from school.

She noted that he continued to rape his daughter while she was pregnant with her first child as he told the victim "the damage had now been done".

Her father continued to rape her through the pregnancy and raped her for the final time two weeks after she gave birth.

Her baby son was in a basket in the room at the time.

The judge said that Jennifer believed Berry was her son's father until DNA testing during the Garda investigation into the rapes confirmed her boyfriend at the time was the father.

Ms Justice Murphy said sexual abuse "ruptures wider family bonds" and added that Ms Berry has "spent her entire life fighting demons".

"She has since learned that she has the strength and capacity to fight those demons," she said.

"He continually used her for his own sexual gratification and treated her as his property," Ms Justice Murphy said before she jailed Berry for 10 years.

Irish Independent

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