A man who subjected his sister to years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse during their childhood has been jailed for three years and nine months.
The now 56-year-old man, who can not be named for legal reasons, was convicted of 11 counts of raping his sister at their family home in Dublin on dates between 1979 and 1982 following a Central Criminal Court trial last July.
The woman told the court in her victim impact statement that she had been an innocent girl whose childhood was stolen by her older brother. She was nine and her brother was 14 years old when he first raped her.
Sentencing the man on Friday, Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy said that had he been an adult when he committed the offences, she would have set a headline sentence of 10 to 12 years.
However, she said she must sentence him as a juvenile because he was aged between 14 and 16 when he abused his sister.
“The effect on her was devastating,” the judge said. “As a young girl, she lived in fear and terror of the accused in her own home.” As the older brother, the judge noted: “He had control, and he kept the complainant in fear.”
At a sentence hearing earlier this week, Mr Heneghan said his client would like to acknowledge the verdict of the jury and apologise to his sister, other siblings and his children.
He said this was an acceptance of the verdict of the jury and acknowledgement that not only was there a victim in the case, but there was also “a wider fallout.”
When Ms Justice Murphy asked what his client was apologising for, Mr Heneghan said it was for what she (the complainant) may feel she deserves an apology for. He told the court there would be no appeal of the convictions.
On Friday Ms Justice Murphy said this apology appeared “more tactical than heartfelt”.
“It is not a true acceptance of responsibility, nor is it a true expression of remorse,” she said. It did not acknowledge the damage done to the complainant, she said.
The judge noted that in intra familial cases such as this, the acceptance of responsibility was even more important.
“Sexual offending causes deep rifts in families,” she said, adding that in this case, some family members had sided with the brother and others with the sister.
“An acceptance of responsibility might allow these rifts to heal,” the judge said.
A number of testimonials were handed in on behalf of the man, but the judge noted that it was unclear if those who had written them were aware that he has since said he accepts the verdicts of the jury.
The court had also since been made aware that one of the testimonials handed up was written by a man who was a convicted sex offender.
The judge said the court would disregard this testimonial, but she expressed concern that the accused had known this person was a sex offender when he invited him to write a testimonial on his behalf.
She handed down a headline sentence of five years but suspended one year of that sentence “in recognition of the useful crime-free life” he has led since the offending.
She suspended a further three months as “a bare acknowledgement that he accepts the verdict of the jury and will not appeal”.
Immense heartache and turmoil
The investigating officer previously told Maddie Grant BL, prosecuting, that the accused man was four years older than his sister, the victim.
He said the abuse took place within the family home, beginning at the time of her first communion.
She said it was not until her adolescent years she realised the extreme nature of what was happening and became fearful of what might happen to her if she became pregnant.
She said her brother’s refusal to accept what he had done has caused immense heartache and turmoil.
The woman then spoke directly to her brother: “You no longer have power over me, can no longer hurt me.”
“It’s your turn to carry the shame of this crime,” she told her brother.
The woman thanked her husband, those who had supported her, victim support, the prosecution team and gardaí.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help.
In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.