Sonya McLean and Stephen Bourke
A 75-year-old man described as a “sick sexual abuser” has been jailed for nine years after being convicted of orally raping and sexually assaulting his partner’s daughter in the late 1990s.
Christopher Ashmore (75) with an address at Cois Coille, Ballyfarnon, Co Roscommon, had pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexually assaulting the girl, which included two charges of oral rape, at two different locations in Dublin on dates between January 1998 and December 1999.
The jury found him guilty on four of the charges.
The victim waived her right to anonymity on Friday so that Ashmore could be named after he was sentenced at the Central Criminal Court.
She said she had not come from a perfect background, but her mother made sure they didn’t want for anything.
“Our home was a happy one,” she said and described listening to music and learning dance moves, “then he came to live with us and everything changed.”
“My happy world that I knew turned upside down. I remember well the fear I felt, a really bad pain in my stomach that never went away,” the woman continued.
She described squeezing her body up against a wall to see if he couldn’t reach her “but it never worked”.
She said she went from being “a happy-go-lucky” child to “a broken child full of fear and anxiety”.
The woman said the accused was her “bogey man” and said the fear she experienced “robbed me of my voice and my ability to speak”.
“I never understood why nobody tried to save,” she continued.
“Maybe he hoped I would always be terrified. The weight of all that fear and pain nearly broke me. But I chose life. I was living the fear. I am now living with guilt.”
She described how her mother said she was an angel from heaven on her communion day and she believed that, but she said now she sees a girl on her communion day she is overwhelmed with sadness.
“You left me a broken child, then a broken teenager and now a broken adult,” the woman said.
She spoke of how the beginning of her relationship with her partner was a struggle because of the abuse she suffered but said they got through that.
She said loving her children was “the most amazing and beautiful feeling” and how she now understands that “bad things can happen no matter what we do”. She said she hopes the abuse she suffered as a child does not impact negatively on her children.
The woman said she suffered years of pain, anger and fear and described the flashbacks as “awful images that play over like a film in my head”.
She said the man tried to destroy the closeness of her family, but he did not.
The woman said the man was “a sick sexual abuser” who has been walking away from what he did for years.
“He showed me no mercy as an innocent young child. He showed no remorse for me,” the woman said.
“Mr Ashmore was an adult at the time when the offences occurred and [the victim] was a young child. Christopher Ashmore was a stepfather to the family and took advantage of a very young and vulnerable girl,” said Justice Carmel Stewart when passing sentence on Friday.
Justice Stewart said the Section 4 rape offences were in the “mid-range of the severe category”. She noted that Ashmore continues to deny the abuse took place and there had been “no expression of remorse”.
“While he’s absolutely entitled to plead not guilty to the charge and maintain his innocence if that’s the stance he wishes to take… it denies the sentencing judge the mitigating factor of an early plea,” she said.
“He was in a position of trust in the family home, not only with respect to his partner’s children but also his own children,” she added.
“There isn’t a lot to go on by way of mitigation,” Justice Stewart said, but added that she would take Ashmore’s age and family circumstances into account.
She sentenced him to ten years in prison for two counts of Section 4 sexual assault, and ordered a term of three years for the two other sexual assaults of which he was convicted.
She ordered that the sentences run concurrently, backdated to his detention on June 12, last, and suspending the final 12 months of both Section 4 offences for an effective operative sentence of 10 years with the final one-year suspended.
She also ordered Christopher Ashmore be registered as a sex offender.
“I want to commend [the victim] for her courage in coming forward with respect to these matters,” she said. “I hope this trial allows her to move on with her life.”
Family and friends of the woman in the court clapped and shouted their thanks when sentence was passed.
Speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice building in Dublin this morning, the victim’s mother said: “Her voice has been heard and she finally got her justice when Christopher
Ashmore was sentenced. Men like him who sexually abuse young children must feel very confident that they have instilled enough fear in a child to silence them forever. But children grow up.”
She praised Justice Stewart and the jury for their “integrity”, and thanked the prosecuting counsel and investigating gardaí.
“We couldn’t have got through it without you,” she said.