A Blessington man has received a four year sentence, fully suspended, for the sexual abuse of a child over a four-year period during the 1980s.
Kenneth Tracey (48), 60 Oak Drive, Blessington, appeared before Judge Patrick Quinn on the morning of Wednesday, July 15, at Wicklow Circuit Court, sitting in Bray. Judge Quinn had heard the facts of the case the previous week at the sentencing hearing and deferred the sentence.
Tracy carried out the crimes against Pamela McLoughlin when she was aged between four and eight.
'It is disappointing, but it is what I was expecting,' said Ms McLoughlin after court last Wednesday. 'I would still emphasise, it took so long to get to this point. The judge said he had to give some leniency because of the early plea. I still say it was not an early plea,' she said.
'I think the courts and the justice system need to step up a bit. They are putting the victim through more than they need to go through. I could have had this suspended sentence nearly four years ago.'
'I feel really frustrated. You always hear so much encouragement for victims to come forward,' she said. 'And I do encourage anyone to come forward. Even if you're not vindicated through the courts as you expect to be, you can get vindicated for yourself.
'He's not sitting in a jail cell now but everybody knows who he is. Which means hopefully he won't ever get the opportunity to do that to anyone else. He's had to face up to what he's done. He's not facing it in jail but he's facing it in the community,' said Ms McLoughlin.
'I used to feel guilt and shame all the time, even though logically I knew I shouldn't. Now I feel I've taken that shame and placed it onto him.
'It was hard but I do feel like a weight is gone off my shoulders. I couldn't describe how much lighter I feel.
'It's opened up an opportunity for me with regard to advocating for victim's rights and maybe make a change.'
She believes people who come forward to report a sexual crime or crime of a sensitive nature should have an advocate there straight away on their behalf.
Tracey committed the offences between July 1987 and July 1991, when he was aged between 15 and 19. He pleaded guilty to seven sample charges. The court heard that the victim estimates approximately 100 incidences of assault took place over the time period in question.
Their mothers were friends and the abuse occurred when Ms McLoughlin would go to the Tracey home a few doors away for tea.
When she heard an item on the radio about sexual abuse she realised that was what was happening to her, and she told her mother.
Ms McLoughlin said in her statement that she feels re-victimised by the criminal justice system.
Judge Quinn said last Wednesday that a victim impact statement read out the previous week by Ms McLoughlin was 'harrowing and distressing'.
In the statement, spoke about the childhood impact of the abuse, the anger and isolation she felt, the depression and anxiety it caused her, the paranoia she feels about her own son's safety and her severe difficulties with the Irish justice and criminal process.
She spoke about the horrific impact the abuse has had on her family. 'I will be paying for your behaviour for the rest of my life. I am never going to fully get over it,' she told Tracey during the sentencing hearing.'
'I am a victim but I am no longer Kenneth Tracey's victim. He can never hurt me again and I hope he never has the opportunity to hurt anyone else again either,' she said in her victim impact statement.
Judge Quinn said last week that the accused has difficulty with communication, problem solving and in essence has a low IQ, according to reports before the court.
He said that special mitigation must be given to early admission followed by a guilty plea. 'She contests that early plea and normally I would agree,' said Judge Quinn. He said that he accepted that Tracey's professional legal advisers had concerns regarding fitness to plea.
Judge Quinn said that the report was available in November 2017, but the defendant was before the court in 2018 and 2019 before entering the plea. He said that ta plea must provide the complainant with vindication and spare her a long trial.
He said that while the defendant was aged between 15 and 19, he was working and had held down a job as a barman from the age of 16.
The accused's low IQ would diminish rather than remove moral blameworthiness, said the judge.
He said that the accused had not committed further offences since the abuse of Ms McLoughlin, and was considered to be of low risk.
'There is evidence of social integration including family responsibilities and employment. He has led a normal life in the intervening period and his past has now caught up with him, with detrimental effects on him and his family,' said Judge Quinn. He said that the abusive conduct has had a detrimental effect on the victim.
'Her life has improved somewhat but she has suffered from the consequences of his actions.'
The judge said that he believes that Tracey is remorseful. 'He strikes me as a man who realises the enormity of his crime and the devastating effect on his victim,' he said. 'He would be entering prison over 30 years after the offending behaviour ceased.'
He said that reports have outlined difficulties he would have in prison, due to an inability to assess whether he was in a safe social setting.
The judge said that Tracey will 'serve the sentence in the community', suspending the entire four years, with Tracey under the supervision of probation and welfare services. 'As the victim has waived her anonymity, his admission of guilt will be well known in the community.'