A 31-YEAR-OLD Gorey man who pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in sexual intercourse with his cousin has been given an 18-month suspended prison sentence.
Michael Fitzgerald, of Ballyregan, Camolin, Gorey and also of 35B Garden City, Gorey, pleaded guilty before Judge Alice Doyle at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court to engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor at Buffers Alley G.A.A. Club, Ballinastraw Lower, Gorey between September 11, 2006, and August 29, 2007.
He also pleaded guilty to a second charge between the same dates at the same location of engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor.
Ms Sinead Gleeson, B.L., prosecuting, told the court that the victim wished to waive her right to anonymity to have the accused named.
Garda John Cleary told the court that the defendant pleaded guilty in relation to activities involving Ms Elizabeth Fitzgerald.
He said that Elizabeth Fitzgerald made a statement at Gorey Garda Station where she said she had sexual intercourse with Michael Fitzgerald at Buffers Alley G.A.A. Club car park.
Garda Cleary said Ms Fitzgerald worked in Ballycanew from where she was collected by the defendant who then drove to Buffers Alley G.A.A. club grounds.
The victim, he said, is a first cousin of the defendant, adding, that he pleaded guilty to both charges which were sample charges. He also said
the activities occurred over a period of months when they were in a relationship.
The defendant, he added, had no previous convictions.
In a victim impact statement Garda Cleary said the victim spoke of how it had affected her life and the impact it had on her family.
She believed the defendant when he said that it was her duty to have sexual intercourse with him.
She added: ‘I have attended counselling over the past few years for it’s one of the more stressful things I have had to come to terms with. Our family has been torn apart by this and I miss my extended family so much but my parents have been very supportive of me.
‘I don’t feel comfortable going into town. I also believe that what has happened to our family is my fault,’ she said.
Garda Cleary said the victim was 16 years of age at the time of the offences. Defence Counsel, John O’Kelly, S.C., said that at the time there appears to have been a relationship between the defendant and his cousin. The defendant is now married.
He has no previous convictions and never otherwise came to the attention of the gardai, before this or since.
Mr. O’Kelly said there had been a trial on another charge arising out of this and the jury brought in a not guilty verdict.
He pleaded guilty to the two charges now before the court while he proceeded to trial on the other charge.
He also told the court that the defendant accepted totally that given the fact she was under 17 years of age it was totally inappropriate behaviour.
He has paid a very heavy penalty for getting into this relationship and is now on the sex offenders registrar.
The defendant, he said, appeared to be infatuated with this cousin but now accepts it was wrong.
What you had was a 16-year-old girl and a cousin who was six years older getting involved in what was totally inappropriate.
He is now fully aware of how wrong it was.
Judge Doyle, in sentencing, said the defendant had pleaded guilty to two counts of defilement on a child under the age of 17 years.
The actions, said Judge Doyle, that had taken place had devastated this young woman.
The offences took place nearly nine years ago when there was a relationship between the accused and the victim.
He was found not guilty on another matter arising out of this by a jury.
‘That matter does not enter my head for I’m solely dealing with defilement,’ said Judge Doyle.
She asked what can be served by sending this man to prison but the case has to be marked by a 18-month custodial sentence.
But taking into account the fact that he has no previous convictions, has never come to the attention of gardai before or since, she would suspend the 18-month sentence.