Saturday 21 September 2019

Victim of child sex abuse reported attacker to gardai after he contacted her on Instagram

Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/PA
Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/PA

Declan Brennan

A victim of child sex abuse went to gardaí after her attacker contacted her on Instagram three years after the abuse had come to an end.

The Limerick man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, molested the child on numerous occasions in her family home over the course of three years. The victim was aged between six and nine at the time and the man, now aged 46, also forced her to watch pornographic films with him before abusing her.

The abuse ended when the relationship between the man and the victim's mother ended in 2012. It came to light in June 2013 when the girl wrote a note to her mother telling her “I've been so scared to tell you this, I hope you won't get cross”.

The girl's parents, who are separated amicably, agreed with their daughter not to report the abuse to gardaí at that time.

In November 2015 the abuser contacted the victim online by “liking” a video she had uploaded to “Instagram”. The girl came into the family kitchen screaming “he's back, he's back” and the girl's parents decided they had to notify gardaí of the allegations.

The man had pleaded not guilty to 19 counts of sexual assault of the child, all on dates between January 2009 and January 2012. After a trial at the Central Criminal Court a jury convicted him of six counts of sexual assault and two of sexual exploitation of a child.

Ms Justice Tara Burns said the man's abuse was of an extremely serious nature and involved an extreme breach of trust.

She said the man gained the trust of the victim's mother before she let him into her family home. He then gained the child's trust by helping her with homework and teaching her how to ride a bicycle.

She said the victim was a vulnerable person at the time as her parents' marriage was breaking up.

She imposed a prison sentence of seven years for the most serious of the sexual assaults. She also imposed concurrent sentences of six years and four years for other assaults and sentences of two years for the sexual exploitation.

The judge commended the courage of the victim, who is now aged 16. The child had given evidence by video link in the trial, with intimate and difficult evidence required to be given by her, the judge said.

Ms Justice Burns said while the allegations were challenged, the defence was conducted in a professional manner and was as non-confrontational as possible.

Ms Justice Burns said that the victim had dealt with the offending in a very brave manner and she was trying to put it behind her.

She noted that in her victim impact statement, the teenager told the court that the abuse had taken her innocence away and she continues to have difficulty trusting people.

She also had to travel a very difficult road in bringing the case to court and then waiting five-and-a-half years for it to come forward.

In her statement the child paid tribute to her mother as a “caring, loving and good mother”.

“You have done no wrong in bringing this man into our house. He betrayed that trust,” she said to her mother. Addressing her abuser she said “you will take away no more years, no more tears”.

She finished by saying: “2019 is a new beginning for my family and hopefully the future will bring happiness back into our lives again”.

In her victim impact statement the child's mother said that she would always feel that she didn't protect her daughter. She said she invited the man into her home and “he destroyed our lives”.

She described the feelings of guilt, anger and sadness and said it had harmed her relationship with her daughter. She praised her daughter's courage in writing the letter to her.

She and her daughter both expressed gratitude to the investigating garda, Det Garda Gerry O’Sullivan, and the other “lovely people” who they met since going to gardaí.

The judge said she did not take into account defence submissions that had been made about the man helping the mother in the home and helping the girl with homework because this behaviour had led to trust being given to him.

He then perpetrated the most vile sexual assault on the victim in the sanctity of her own home, the judge said.

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