Tuesday 23 January 2018

House of Horror garda hits out at dated incest law

Retiring Garda Sgt John Hynes pictured on his last day at court in Roscommon. Photo: David Walsh
Retiring Garda Sgt John Hynes pictured on his last day at court in Roscommon. Photo: David Walsh

Brian McDonald

The garda who headed up the most shocking child abuse and neglect case in the history of the State has spoken of his disappointment at the failure to amend legislation which is now more than a century old.

Sergeant John Hynes, who is about to retire, spent five years investigating the House of Horrors case which detailed horrific sexual abuse and neglect by the parents of six vulnerable children.

"It was absolutely frightening what was done to them. The neglect and cruelty was horrific. There was no heat, food or proper clothing in a rat-infested house and drink was the order of the day – every day," Sgt Hynes said.

The mother was charged and convicted under Section Two of the 1908 Punishment of Incest Act which carries a maximum sentence of seven years. But Section One of the same act provides for a life sentence for a man convicted of the same incest offence.

Sgt Hynes said he met former Justice Minister Alan Shatter in 2011 and was given an assurance that the minister was already looking at introducing a new sex offenders act which would bring parity to the sentences.

"The mother was convicted in 2009 and even the late Judge Miriam Reynolds who sentenced her made the same point about how outdated the law was for women convicted of incest.

"The act is now 106 years old and it is very disappointing that nothing has been done about it – that mother is out of jail now having done her sentence and nothing has changed."

The mother, now 45, was sentenced in January 2009 to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to 10 charges – including two of incest, two of sexual abuse and six of neglect and wilful ill-treatment and neglect of the children between 1998 and 2004.

She described herself as the "worst mother in the world" after a court heard a harrowing catalogue of abuse, including forcing her 13-year-old son to have sex with her.

She was the first woman in Irish legal history to be convicted of incest and the first to be registered as a sex offender. She was released from prison six weeks ago after receiving the usual one-quarter remission of her sentence for good behaviour.

Her husband was jailed for 12 and a half years for the rape and sexual assault of one of his sons.

As well as making history with the first conviction of a woman for incest, Sgt Hynes was also the lead investigator in the country's first internet libel prosecution in 2001. He received the National Garda Excellence Award in 2011.

He has been investigating serious sex offences since 1998 and regards the House of Horrors case as the one that will always stand out.

"It appalled the nation and led to the Gibbons Inquiry. Even today when I meet people they associate me with the case, but you would not be normal if you weren't affected by it," he said.

Sgt Hynes will retire next month after a lengthy career which saw him serve in the National Drugs Unit at Kevin Street in Dublin, Keadue, Co Roscommon, and for the last 20 years in Castlerea.


Irish Independent

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