Brion Hoban and Fiona Ferguson
A Galway man who attempted to rape a child that was in his mother's care has been jailed for three and a half years.
The 24-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the anonymity of the child victim, took the then seven-year-old girl by the hand and brought her away from where she was playing with his younger sisters and to a bedroom.
When another child raised the alarm the man's mother, who was minding the child while her parents were in work, ran into the bedroom. She found the child standing in front of the man who had his penis out.
The man later admitted to gardaí that his intention was to rape the child and said he probably would have done it if his mother had not walked in on him.
He said he was not in his right mind. The court heard details of a psychological report which outlined the accused man was severely mentally ill at the time and suffering psychotic symptoms.
The man pleaded guilty before the Central Criminal Court to attempted rape at his address in Co Galway on July 23rd, 2019. He has a number of previous convictions including possession of drugs for sale or supply, theft and criminal damage.
He has been in custody since the date of his arrest in October 2019, the detective sergeant in charge of the case told the court.
This witness agreed with defence counsel Giollaiosa Ó Lideadha SC that nothing the victim told gardaí would have “brought home” the charge of attempted rape and that the charge stemmed from admissions made by the defendant about his intentions.
He accepted that defendant told gardaí that he was not in his right mind when he committed the offence and that man's parents had attempted to have him admitted to hospital weeks before the offence because he was displaying psychotic behaviour.
Mr Ó Lideadha said this was a single incident in which there were not multiple complainants or offences and it did not occur over a long period of time. He said his client was not “explicitly in a position of trust”.
Counsel said the details of the offence were consistent with it being “an aberration in the context of a psychotic episode”. He said this was “a truly exceptional event in truly exceptional circumstances”.
In sentencing today, Justice Michael White paid tribute to the injured party and noted the effect of the trauma on the child.
Mr Justice White said the aggravating features of the case included the age of the injured party, the age gap between the two and the accused man's previous convictions.
He set a headline sentence of seven years before noting in mitigation the man's guilty plea and serious psychiatric condition at the time of the offence. He referred to a psychological report which outlined the author was satisfied that the accused man was psychotic at the time of the offence.
The judge noted the man's parents had given details of bizarre behaviour around the time of the offence supporting the proposition that he was experiencing psychotic symptoms.
He also noted in mitigation the man's genuine remorse and co-operation with the investigation. He said it was accepted that the actual offence could not have been proven without the man's admissions to gardaí.
Mr Justice White imposed a sentence of three and a half years and ordered two and half years post release supervision. He noted the accused would need close supervision on his release and warned him that any lack of cooperation with post release supervision was a separate offence.
The parents of the victim said their child now has difficulties socialising, is afraid of the dark and is unable to sleep on her own. They said she suffers periodic panic attacks and constant nightmares.