A 47-year-old woman who served a six-month jail sentence for the sexual abuse of her brother when he was just nine years old and she was 21 appealed the conviction today but her appeal was dismissed.
Mr Justice George Bermingham, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy presided over the appeal.
Defence barrister, Donal O’Sullivan BL acknowledged that his client had fully contested the case but he pleaded for leniency on a number of grounds including the fact that the woman had a number of serious medical conditions and caring work she did in the community. He also said a conviction would end her chose career. She wept in court when Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said the court was dismissing her appeal.
The woman had denied ten counts of sexually abusing her brother on various dates between 1993 and 1995 but a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in February 2018 found her guilty of four counts including three sexual assaults at the family home in Cork and one assault while staying in a hotel in Dublin city centre.
Judge Brian O’Callaghan said at the sentencing hearing that what had struck him most forcibly following conviction were the complete lack of remorse and the complete lack of insight by the woman into the harm that she had caused her younger brother and only sibling after such a terrible breach of trust.
Det Garda Donal O’Connell outlined the circumstances of the abuse which, in two instances, consisted of the woman coming into the boy’s bedroom and getting in his bed and then taking his hand and getting him to massage her breast, first outside and then inside her pyjamas.
On another occasion, she directed the boy, then aged 11, into her bed where she again took his hand and forced him to touch her private parts and insert his finger into her vagina while she started moving up against him with the abuse ending when he ejaculated and went to the bathroom.
On another occasion, when the boy was aged 12, he ended up sharing a room with his sister then aged 24 away from his parents in another room during a family break in Dublin and she again got into bed beside him and manipulated his hand into touching her breast while she masturbated herself.
The complainant had cut all ties with his family and moved abroad but when his sister and his parents learned that he had become a father, they made an application through the courts for access to the man’s infant son, their nephew and grandson.
In the course of the access case, the man learned that his sister was on the board of management of a local school and concerned that she might have access to children and the fact that she had abused him, he reported the matter to gardaí in 2015 and they began an investigation.
The man told in his Victim Impact Statement how his life had been changed irrevocably by the abuse his sister had perpetrated on him, leading to him to attempt suicide when he was just 12 as a means of escape and to a complete lack of trust in others that took him years to overcome.
He told how every morning, he used to put on “a mental and emotional suit of armour” to face the day and pretend that he was leading a normal life when the abuse continued to haunt him particularly by night when he suffered nightmares right through his teenager years and beyond.
Judge O’Callaghan noted the defence submissions and he noted that the woman had no previous convictions and had never come to the attention of the gardaí before or since this incident and in all other respects she was a completely law abiding person and unlikely to re-offend.
However Judge O’Callaghan said he had come to court hoping that there would be some expression of remorse from the woman for everyone’s sake in the case but it was clear that she had no insight or appreciation of the harm she had caused to her sibling by her abuse.
He recognized that the conviction would mean an end to her career while a custodial sentence would also have an impact on her elderly parents but he felt that such was the breach of trust, the seriousness of the harm and the lack of remorse, he felt he had to impose a custodial sentence.
He imposed an 18 months sentence for the first the two sexual assaults but suspended them in their entirety but the later two assaults were of a more serious nature and he imposed a six month jail term while he also ordered the woman’s name to be placed on the sex offenders register for seven years.
Vincent Heneghan the defendant’s senior counsel said today's appeal was based on two grounds – the sentencing judge’s charge to the jury and his refusal to discharge the jury earlier, on a defence application.