Monday 11 December 2017

Public had to know all the facts for justice to be done

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

AN audible gasp punctuated the Central Criminal Court yesterday when Mr Justice Barry White imposed a 14-year jail term on the father at the centre of the "House of Horrors" abuse case.

Some commentators have criticised the sentence handed down by Mr Justice White, one of the country's most experienced criminal law judges.

The judge said that while a life sentence would not necessarily be inappropriate, a determinate sentence was more satisfactory. At least we know that the father will serve a fixed and lengthy term. The trial of the father has also reinforced the difficulties faced by victims of rape and sexual violence, especially when it occurs within a close family setting.

One of the most traumatic aspects of the case for the victim and his family were his admissions that he had raped his young sisters on a regular basis. (sibling sexual abuse is an all-too common consequence of incest). The sexual history of a complainant can be critical in a rape trial, but there is scope to improve our "rape shield" laws to protect victims as they endure their courageous journey through the courts.

The disclosures served the public interest insofar as they exposed the complexity and devastation of incest and familial abuse.

It does not serve the public interest to censor -- even with the best of intentions -- the reality of these devastating crimes.

Irish Independent

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