Wednesday 21 August 2019

'Today I hand back the guilt, shame and hurt to my rapist dad'

Melissa O’Keeffe watches as her sister Amy Barrett speaks outside court after their father Jerry O’Keeffe was jailed for 10 years. Photo: Collins Courts
Melissa O’Keeffe watches as her sister Amy Barrett speaks outside court after their father Jerry O’Keeffe was jailed for 10 years. Photo: Collins Courts

Sarah Jane Murphy

A retired soldier who raped his daughter and regularly abused another daughter has been jailed for 10 years.

Justice Patrick McCarthy said that Jerry O'Keeffe's crimes brought about the destruction of his daughters' childhoods.

"It is hard to find words to describe each new outrage inflicted on these children," the judge said.

O'Keeffe (69), of Oakhill, Youghal, Co Cork, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to three charges of rape, five of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. These were nine sample charges out of a total of 78 covering a period from January 1980 to March 1987.

At a pre-sentencing hearing last October, Timothy O'Leary SC, prosecuting, told the court that both women were waiving their right to anonymity.

Speaking outside court yesterday, Amy Barrett said she and her sister Melissa O'Keeffe were happy with the sentence, but sad at the same time as O'Keeffe was still their father.

Jerry O’Keeffe
Jerry O’Keeffe

"It was never about the sentence, it was always about an admission of guilt, keeping him away from other kids, and getting closure for ourselves," she said.

The judge said O'Keeffe committed extremely serious offences and it beggared belief that a man could behave in such a fashion.

In her victim impact statement, Ms Barrett described her childhood as traumatic and said she was "a mixed bag of confusion and terror" as a result of her father's crimes.

Previously the court heard that the rape charges and two charges of indecent assault related to O'Keeffe's eldest daughter, Ms Barrett, and took place at the family home at The Arch, Youghal.

Mr Justice McCarthy said the defendant's rape of his daughter Amy occurred over a period of five years, starting when she was eight years old, was a commonplace event and amounted to "repeated, extremely serious abuse".

He said the assaults against Ms O'Keeffe, which began when she was 11, and went on for six years, were also extremely serious.

Mr Justice McCarthy said their victim impact statements conveyed a degree of hurt and pain that was difficult to understand.

He said he was taking O'Keeffe's guilty plea into account in mitigation, but said it came "not at the eleventh hour but at five minutes to midnight" after legal proceedings had begun.

He imposed a seven-year sentence for the rape offences and a three-year term of imprisonment for the sexual assaults, to run consecutively.

Mr Justice McCarthy instructed that O'Keeffe's name be added to the sex offenders' register and said he must liaise with the probation services for a period of three years following his release.

Yesterday, Ms Barrett encouraged other victims of sexual abuse to come forward.

"It's not your fault. I didn't ask for this and Melissa didn't ask for this either," she said.

In her victim impact statement Ms Barrett said she found making friends very difficult and attempted suicide after the birth of her first child "just to get some peace".

"I have had feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment and hurt for years, but today I hand them back to my dad," she said.

The remaining charges against O'Keeffe related to the abuse of his younger daughter, Ms O'Keeffe, and took place at the family's new home at Catherine's Street, Youghal.

The sisters reported the abuse to the Southern Health Board in 1999 after attending the Rape Crisis Centre in Co Cork. As a result O'Keeffe agreed to leave the family home and no further action was taken against him.

Ms O'Keeffe said she went to gardaí in 1999 but withdrew the allegations after her parents confronted her.

Both victims reported the matter to gardaí again in October 2014.

Irish Independent

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