Monday 26 February 2018

Fears over feud revival after rapist's sentence cut

A young woman's childhood ordeal has been hijacked by inner-city criminals, writes Maeve Sheehan

GARDAI are preparing for another bloody cycle in the feud that has riven a working-class inner-city community in Dublin, after a child rapist's life sentence was overturned.

Christy Griffin's life term for raping and sexually assaulting his partner's daughter was reduced to 15 years by the Court of Criminal Appeal on Friday. There were "extraneous events" which should not have been taken into account when he was sentenced to life for abusing the child to whom he was a father figure.

A notorious criminal, Griffin's outing as a child rapist in Dublin's north inner-city split his gang into rival factions at war over allegiance to their paedophile gang leader.

From the time his young victim first reported him to gardai, violence has followed progress through the justice system. Five men, on both sides, have been shot dead. Hand grenades have been lobbed into homes. Armed patrols roamed inner-city turf when his trial opened. The trial itself was moved out of the city centre to the suburban court of Cloverhill to defuse tensions. Gardai fear Griffin's latest legal victory could incite another round of retribution.

At the centre of this violent storm is a young woman in her twenties who suffers chronic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and a broken relationship with her mother.

Her ordeal was revisited in the appeal court's judgement, delivered last Friday.

She was eight years old in 1993 when Christy Griffin began abusing her. He was 24,

her mother's partner, and father of her step-sisters. He had a litany of convictions for burglary, guns and robbery when still in his teens. He had no job and no obvious source of income.

He started by rubbing himself against her when her mother was out, and progressed to kissing her, lifting her and touching her inappropriately. He forced her to touch him and later made her masturbate him. When she was 13, he forced her to perform oral sex, holding her down and forcing her to sleep in his bed afterwards.

Afterwards, she told her mother and her grandmother about the abuse. Her mother, though upset, did nothing about it. The girl, aged 13, "felt there was nothing that she could do, that she was powerless and that she had lost her relationship with her mother". She didn't go to the gardai because where she came from, no one would even think of going to them for anything.

So she lived in fear of the man who was supposed to fill the role of father in her life. Griffin often cried after abusing her, telling her not to let him do it again, as though to make her feel somehow responsible. He gave her gifts -- at one point he gave her a car.

He raped her when she was 16. After that, the abuse stopped. She left home some months later. The following year she reported Griffin to gardai because she feared he would abuse her step-sisters.

Before Griffin was sentenced, details emerged in court of the retribution caused by his victim's complaint.

Griffin was shot through the front window of his home and struck in the elbow two years before he went on trial. Months later, the girl's family was attacked. Shots were fired through the windows of two homes where her relatives lived. The following day, hand grenades were lobbed into the homes of Christy Griffin and his nephew.

Details of other attacks were not outlined in court, such as the beatings that followed as Griffin and the girl's family collided in the tight-knit community, including an assault on the girl's uncle.

Since then, five men have been shot dead, including Gavin McCarthy, who was shot in the head as he stood in a restaurant doorway, and Stephen Ledden, who was shot sitting in his home on Oriel Street.

While allegiance to a paedophile gang leader might have been the spark that triggered the feud, the real turf wars are over drugs and organised crime. Both factions were targeted in Operation Chisel, a garda investigation into organised crime.

Griffin was convicted in 2007 of one count of rape and sexual assault. At his trial, Mr Justice Paul Carney found that the case was "of such an order of gravity" and his record "so appalling" that a discretionary life sentence was justified.

The Court of Criminal Appeal disagreed. The appeal court said it seemed clear that Mr Justice Carney had treated Griffin's record as including the "so-called extraneous events" and in doing so, "fell into error". While evidence was given by gardai of serious criminal acts relating to Griffin's trial, no evidence was brought implicating him.

There were no other mitigating factors, despite rather loathsome arguments that he hadn't violently threatened the girl, that the sexual assaults were generally acts of "self-gratification", and that he only ejaculated once -- during oral sex when she was 13.

The young woman couldn't sleep, lost her appetite and lost weight. She was traumatised both by the abuse and by constant fear; deprived of her youth and of her relationship with her mother, "who so dramatically and so irresponsibly failed to respond to her complaint". Griffin had not spared her -- contesting the charges at every stage -- the court said, and did not spare her the ordeal of having to give evidence, twice.

This is the legacy of Griffin's "self-gratification" on a woman, whose horrific childhood ordeal has been hijacked by inner-city criminals, feuding for their own gain.

Sunday Independent

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