Cork court: Man jailed for repeated sexual assault of child he described as 'kind, innocent and vulnerable'

The injured party spoke of how hard it was to attend family occasion over the years, at which the accused was also present, and that she felt she had to smile “but inside I wanted to die.”
Cork court: Man jailed for repeated sexual assault of child he described as 'kind, innocent and vulnerable'

The accused man pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to rape the child and 19 counts of indecent or sexual assault, mainly in the late 1980s.

A woman who went to the gardaí in 2019 with a complaint that her uncle had sexually assaulted her repeatedly and once tried to rape her learned for the first time that he had confessed the crimes to her mother about 30 years ago but she would not let gardaí interview her daughter.

Today – over 30 years since the crimes were committed – the 68-year-old man has been jailed for four years with the last two and a half years of that sentence suspended.

Unusual circumstances 

Mr Justice Michael McGrath said of the charges in the case, “The circumstances in which they come before the court are extremely unusual if not unique.” 

The judge made his comments in the course of a lengthy judgement at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork.

The accused man pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to rape the child and 19 counts of indecent or sexual assault, mainly in the late 1980s. The victim was aged between 7 and 10 at the time.

Detective Garda Brian Morris said the abuse which occurred in a number of locations saw the defendant touching the child’s vagina and masturbating himself. The most serious offence consisted of attempted rape where he removed all of her clothing and lay her down on his coat in a field and attempted to have full sexual intercourse with the child. He stopped when the victim said it was hurting her.

In other sexual assaults he put her on his lap as he drove her to a shop on the promise of buying a treat such as ice cream.

Defendant confessed 

The defendant was arrested and questioned at the beginning of 2020 when he admitted the attempted rape and all the counts of indecent/sexual assault.

Detective Garda Morris said, “He informed gardaí that in 1997 he confessed to gardaí he abused her. The file from 1997 was retrieved from archives. 

"Back in 1997 he does admit sexually abusing (victim’s name) and attempting to have full vaginal sex. 

Described her as an innocent child

"In that interview he described her as a kind, innocent and vulnerable child.

“He told the child that what he was doing to her was their little secret and not to tell anyone about it.

“When he made this admission in 1997 she would have been 16. Unknown to (victim’s name) until very recently, gardaí approached her mother (about these allegations) and she refused to give gardaí permission to interview her,” the detective said.

Jailed previously for sexual abuse 

When the accused made the admission to gardaí and to the child’s mother, he was prosecuted for sexual abuse of three other injured parties. He was sentenced in 1999 at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to four years in prison for those offences.

Defence senior counsel Roisín Lacey submitted at an earlier hearing that it was through no fault of the accused that he was not prosecuted 30 years ago for these offences – with other sexual offences – and that if that had occurred it was likely that he would have received a similar concurrent sentence.

Mr Justice McGrath said that he had to consider the issue of proportionality in terms of the sentence.

He said he also had to consider the significant lifelong harm suffered by the injured party.

The injured party said, “His guilty plea means nothing to me… I hope he gets the maximum sentence possible.” 

She also spoke of how hard it was to attend family occasion over the years, at which the accused was also present, and that she felt she had to smile “but inside I wanted to die.”

Defence senior counsel Ms Lacey said the accused had been exposed to violence in his childhood and had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. In a letter written by the accused he said there was not a day that passed when he did not regret his actions.

The judge noted the engagement the accused had with a rehabilitation programme and his appreciation of the damage he had done. One report referred to the defendant’s statement that one could talk about excusing of a crime like theft but that no excuse could be made for sexual offences against “a kind, innocent vulnerable child.” 

In a report from a psychologist in relation to the defendant’s sexual offences against the child, it was noted, “He was overpowered by his own emotions at the time.” 

The defendant is not identified in this case as it could lead to the identification of the injured party in this case or victims of the other sexual offences he committed in the 1990s for which he was sentenced in 1999.

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