Sunday 19 November 2017

Rapist is spared jail to mind his autistic children

Dearbhail McDonald and Declan Brennan

A WOMAN who was raped as a 14-year-old by her brother-in-law says she was "devastated again" after a judge ruled her rapist will not serve a jail term because it would impose hardship on his young family.

The now 41-year-old mother said that "some justice" had been afforded to her last February when the man was convicted by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of raping her on two occasions, and of indecently assaulting her on two other occasions, over an eight-month period between September 1985 and May 1986.

The man, who was 24 at the time of the offences, had denied all charges and had been remanded in custody on conviction pending his sentence.

But yesterday the 52-year-old father of five walked free after trial judge Mr Justice Garret Sheehan suspended his seven-year jail term on condition that he keeps the peace for a period of five years.

Judge Sheehan, who said that the appropriate sentence was seven years, said he found the circumstances of the man and his young family as "wholly exceptional".

"Notwithstanding the seriousness of the offences which (the man) has been found guilty of, this is one of those rare occasions when it is appropriate for this court to impose a suspended sentence."

Two of the man's young sons have autism and require 24-hour care and a third child has many medical health issues.

Judge Sheehan ruled it was in the interest of society and of the man's family that this family unit is "preserved and supported".

The judge, who received reports relating to the man's children, said that in considering the appropriate sentence, the most important matter the court must acknowledge is the huge suffering endured by the woman as a result of the rape.

Judge Sheehan said that the offences lie at the top end of the mid-range of the scale and that seven years was the appropriate sentence in the absence of any mitigating factors.

INVASION

He said that the absence of any other convictions and the fact that the defendant had "self-rehabilitated" since the offences 27 years ago were significant mitigating factors.

Last night the victim said she had been "devastated again" by the suspended sentence.

"How can a person who never pleaded guilty self-rehabilitate?" she asked, adding that there was "no sign of regret; no apology" from her abuser.

"It was all about him and I felt the judge put more weight on his mitigating factors than on the devastating effect it has had on my life."

In her victim impact statement, which was read out at a previous hearing, the victim said the rape had "stolen her teenage years and her curiosity for life".

"Part of me was stolen, killed and lost for ever," she said.

"I will have to live with this invasion of my body all my life," she added.

Irish Independent

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