Man convicted of 72 counts of abusing stepdaughter loses appeal

Judge Sheahan said the attacks had had a devastating effect on the woman, who believed the abuse had also affected her ability to be a mother to her own children. 
Man convicted of 72 counts of abusing stepdaughter loses appeal

Peter Doyle

A man who began abusing his step-daughter before her First Holy Communion has lost an appeal against his 10-year sentence.

The 73-year-old, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, was convicted at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of 72 counts of indecent assault on various dates between October 31st, 1973 and August 24th, 1979.

He was aged 25 and the child was aged six when the attacks began.

Fear and anxiety

On sentencing the accused in May 2019, Judge Elma Sheahan said it was difficult to overstate the levels of fear and anxiety experienced by a child subjected to this level of abuse.

The defendant later lost an appeal against the conviction.

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal rejected submissions from counsel that the trial judge erred when she imposed consecutive sentences of two years for seven counts on the indictment.

It was also submitted that the trial judge’s charge to the jury had lacked balance.

But Mr Justice John Edwards said the three-judge court had “no hesitation” in stating their complete disagreement to the appellant’s grounds for appeal.

First abuse

The first instance of abuse occurred before the victim's First Holy Communion when she was seven years old.

The accused was in a long-term relationship with the victim's mother and though they were never married, he was effectively her step-father. The abuse came to an end when the victim was around 13 years old.

His only other previous convictions were for drink-driving.

Judge Sheahan said the attacks had had a devastating effect on the woman, who believed the abuse had also affected her ability to be a mother to her own children.

The judge noted the maximum penalty for indecent assault was set at two years at the time of the offending. She said she believed this sentencing range did not meet the seriousness of the offending, and she would take the exceptional step of imposing consecutive sentences.

Having noted mitigation of a good work history and a good family life in recent years, Judge Sheahan imposed consecutive sentences of 14 years on a number of counts.

She then set a final sentence of 10 years.

In her victim impact statement, which was read out in court, the woman said she had to run away from Dublin at the age of 16 due to the abuse the man inflicted.

She said “I can say with 200 per cent I have never been a child” as her childhood had been taken away from her.

She said that the abuse had “scarred me forever and will never go away”.

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