Tuesday 23 October 2018

Taoiseach hopes rape victims will not be 'discouraged' by Patrick O'Brien case

Lyndsey Telford

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has claimed there are inadequacies within the court system after a man who raped his daughter for 10 years walked free

Mr Kenny urged the Court of Criminal Appeal to deal with the case involving convicted rapist Patrick O'Brien as a matter of urgency.

The 72-year-old was handed a 12-year sentence with nine suspended, but was released on bail to await an appeal on the jail term.

"It has filled the people with a sense of revulsion," Mr Kenny said.

"I trust that the Court of Criminal Appeal will deal with the referencing of this as a priority."

Fiona Doyle was raped once a week for a decade from the age of eight. She said she was devastated by the sentencing.

Mr Kenny praised Ms Doyle, who waived her right to anonymity, saying she had shown great courage throughout the case.

He added that he would arrange an Oireachtas debate on potential reforms to the court system, which were first proposed by Justice Minister Alan Shatter last September.

"I suggest we should have a discussion about what the Oireachtas feels should be put in place for the future, given that there are inadequacies with some respects of our court system in terms of consistency, membership and capacity to respond quickly," Mr Kenny said.

This follows calls for the Government to introduce sentencing guidelines for sex offences.

The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) is writing to the justice minister to demand greater consistency in such cases.

Opposition parties Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein also called for sentencing guidelines to be written into law, with the former preparing to publish a Bill on the establishment of a Sentencing Council.

RCNI spokeswoman Cliona Saidlear described O'Brien's sentencing as dreadful.

"There is deep hurt and outrage out there," she said.

"Every time there is a sentence like this, it has a lasting impact in terms of a survivor's confidence and their vindication, of survivor's rights, and a survivor going forward and feeling they will be taken seriously."

Ms Saidlear said there were so few sex offence cases that go to court and get convictions - making it all the more important to get the sentencing right.

Rape victim Ms Doyle, who took the case against her father, from Bray, Co Wicklow, said she felt abused by the justice system.

Her brutal ordeal began on the night before her First Holy Communion in 1973 and continued to 1982.

O'Brien pleaded guilty to 16 charges of the rape and indecent assault of his daughter.

Mr Justice Paul Carney suspended nine years of his sentence and remanded him on bail, with regard to his poor health, as he awaits the appeal.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach urged other victims of rape and incest not to be discouraged by the sentencing at Dublin's Central Criminal Court.

"I would hope that others who are abused or horrifically defiled will not lose courage and will have the courage to speak out as Ms Doyle has done," he said.

He said she had been forced to endure horrific and barbaric treatment, and that he admired her courage.

Elsewhere, in a statement, the Department of Justice said it would not be appropriate to comment on the decision of a judge in any particular case.

It said where the Director of Public Prosecutions considers a sentence imposed by the Central Criminal Court in a particular case as unduly lenient, she can apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal to review it.

However, the department added that Mr Shatter was considering reforms to sentencing policy, with a working group report expected later this year.

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