Friday 19 October 2018

'Psychological control is far greater than any kind of physical control' - rape survivor Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill on Tom Humphries sentencing

Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill Photo: Courtpix
Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill Photo: Courtpix

Sean Nolan

Rape survivor Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill has said that the two-and-a-half year sentence handed down to Tom Humphries yesterday showed the lack of understanding by the judiciary on the power and damage that psychological abuse and coercive control can cause.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill also said that there should be no mitigating factors when it comes to abuse.

Humphries' sentence yesterday caused widespread outrage and Ní Dhomhnaill said that she felt "incredibly sad for the young woman at the centre of the case".

Ní Dhomhnaill's former partner Magnus Meyer Hustveit, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to one count of rape and one count of sexual assault committed against her between 2011 and 2012.

He was given a wholly suspended seven-year sentence by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on July 13 2015.

In March 2016 he was re-sentenced to 15 months imprisonment following a finding by the Court of Appeal that his original term was ‘unduly lenient’.

Ní Dhomhnaill said that when it comes to abuse "it is not about the legal system, as it doesn't really fix any of it".

Then she agreed that we have a problem with lenient sentencing in Ireland before adding that we need to take a step back.

"We have to ask what is the point of sentencing in terms of inter-personal violence because realistically you can never undo the harm that has been done to someone when it comes to issues of sexual abuse or domestic abuse."

"Speaking from my own experience, I know when Magnus went to prison, I didn't necessarily feel better for it. I didn't feel anything had been returned to me that was taken."

Ní Dhomhnaill also criticised the legal system for how they treat crimes involving psychological abuse and control.

"He had agency, he was an adult," she said.

"All of this has been thrown on this young woman. She had absolutely no choice in anything. He groomed her.

"What a lot of this is speaking to within the legal system, as well as the public commentary, is our lack of understanding of the power and the damage done by psychological abuse and by coercive control.

"Perhaps if the judiciary understood a little bit more about the absolute grip that psychological control has on you - it is far greater than any kind of physical control someone could ever hold over someone - perhaps then we might see sentences that make more sense to our minds."

"Looking at this case there must have been incredible damage done to the young woman. I seem to know more about damage Tom Humphries has suffered."

At the sentencing hearing yesterday for Humphries Judge O’Connor said the sexual exploitation charges carried a maximum term of life in prison, but she considered a headline figure in this case, before considering mitigating factors, as three years.

In sentencing him to two-and-a-half years and two years respectively for the defilement and sexual exploitation charges, the judge said she was taking into account Humphries’ guilty plea last March.

However, the judge said that while this plea was the “most valuable form of mitigation”, she noted it was not an early plea, which would have been more helpful to the young woman who was subject to his abuse as a child.

She said she was taking into account that Humphries had lost his livelihood and his reputation.

Judge O’Connor said she also considered letters from family members and the impact the case had had on his family.

She also said she considered letters from two “close friends”, as well as the fact Humphries had mental health issues and that one doctor had recommended he get psychiatric treatment.

However, Ní Dhomhnaill said that there should be no mitigating factors when it came to cases such as this.

"It is absolutely all his doing and it should be clear," she said.

"There can't be mitigating factors to abuse. I know that there are in a legal context but I think for the rest of us socially there is no getting around it, this man had full capacity."

There was also praise for the woman in the case who asked not be referred to as a victim, a move that Ní Dhomhnaill called "incredible".

Online Editors

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