Tuesday 19 November 2019

Seriously ill Patrick O'Brien 'would be as well treated in prison as in the community' - Court of Appeal

Victim Fiona Doyle: 'I’m still in counselling, I still battle flashbacks and nightmares... the battle still goes on.'

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Patrick O'Brien, who subjected his daughter Fiona Doyle to shocking torture over a number of years, cannot be treated as a person for whom a prison sentence would be impossible to tolerate, the Court of Appeal has stated.

The 75-year-old had pleaded guilty to 16 sample charges of rape and indecent assault committed against his daugher Ms Doyle at Mackintosh Park, Pottery Road in Dun Laoighaire from 1973 to 1982.

Trial judge Mr Justice Paul Carney had described it as one of the worst cases of abuse one could possibly find.

Mr Justice Carney, taking into account O'Brien's health problems, sentenced him to 12 years in prison, suspended the final nine and granted him continuing bail pending an appeal. Bail was taken from him a few days later, the court heard.

Last month, the Court of Appeal found that O'Brien's sentence was unduly lenient.

In a judgment outlining its reasons for reaching that decision, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan said this morning that there is no rule which prevents those who are ill from being sent to prison

O'Brien is and has been suffering from a number of serious illnessess with painful and unpleasant symptoms and with significant disabilities, Mr Justice Ryan stated.

“But the evidence before the trial court was that he would be as well treated in prison as in the community”.

The point therefore is that O'Brien is entitled to such mitigation as his health condition warrants but “he cannot be treated as a person for whom a prison sentence would be impossible to tolerate”.

His illness is persistent, causing pain and discomfort and disability but it is not worse for being in prison rather than living in the community.

Ms Doyle welcomed the ruling today saying that she believed her father exaggerated his ailments.

“Too many of them use [age and infirmity] as a cop out. His age [and] his heath were not an issue when he was abusing me so I don’t see why it should be an issue now.”

“ [He was an] expert at exaggerating stuff like that.”                                   

“It brings hope to victims and despair to other paedophiles.”

“I had written a second victim impact statement but it was very detailed and graphic and I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to read it.”

Ms Doyle said the fact that her father would have served two years and three months would have been “very unbalanced” compared to “the sentence” that she herself has in dealing with the abuse.

“I’m still in counselling, I still battle flashbacks and nightmares... the battle still goes on.”

She spoke directly today to victims of abuse and willed them to come forward and find their voice.

“Go through the courts, see your abuser go to jail, and to not be afraid to appeal the sentence.” “[Abusers], always look over your shoulder, because one day, one day, your victim will find a voice and bring it forward.”

Ms Doyle also thanked the public for their support.

“Without the public and without the support of the public that I had in the initial sentencing I probably wouldn’t be here today.”

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