In a sentencing decision that can only cause wonder and outrage, serial sex offender Edwin Curry, who abused children during three decades, was this week handed a four-year sentence at Kilkenny Circuit Court.
Consider what Curry had done: between 1964 and 1985, he lured children as young as five into a shed with sweets and kittens. Then he commenced to abuse them on a regular basis. In one horrific detail, a woman told the court in her victim impact statement that he threatened to take her younger sister if she refused to go into his shed.
In all, Curry was convicted of 189 charges related to abuse. Years of depression and low self-esteem followed for some of the children he abused. One said: "Sex to me is disgusting, ugly and dark."
One girl had blackouts during her childhood as the abuse went on. Two women said they had felt like child prostitutes for years. This is one of the worst things that abusers such as Curry do to their victims.
Young children have a tendency to blame themselves if bad things happen to them. This is because their thinking has not yet developed to the point where they can place blame correctly.
This is why the victims of child abusers can, themselves, be plagued with guilt for years. The abuser, who may feel no guilt at all himself, has exploited the children's minds as well as their bodies.
Children also have the experience, where prolonged abuse takes place, of being trapped, of seeing no way out. They may not have the language with which to tell their parents what is happening. The abuser may make terrifying threats about what will happen if they tell. They may believe they must continue to go along with the abuse in order to protect a younger child. And they may, completely unjustifiably, imagine that they themselves have done something wrong.
Curry abused nine children that we know of. Each will suffer to some degree psychologically for the rest of their lives -- between them, some 700 years. He got two years for each count committed before 1981 (when the law changed) and four years for each count committed since. If the sentences ran consecutively Mr Curry would, in effect, be put away for good.
The sickener is that the sentences run concurrently -- so Curry will be out just in time to pick up his pension and his free travel pass.
I am not clear about the degree of discretion Judge Olive Buttimer had when sentencing Curry for what she called "a disastrous breach of trust".
But if this is the best the law can do, the law is failing abused children.