A Dublin man who sexually assaulted four of his nieces during visits to his home has been jailed for three years.
The man (55), who cannot be named for legal reasons, engaged in “persistent, nasty and insidious” offending over a 12-year period against his four nieces, three of whom were children when the abuse began.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that he abused one victim while she was babysitting his children and abused another while she was in a bed in the same room as his sleeping daughter.
The man with an address in south Dublin, pleaded guilty to a total of 22 counts of sexual assault committed against his four nieces on dates between December 1, 1991 and December 18, 2003. He has no previous convictions.
Passing sentence on Monday, Judge Pauline Codd said all of the offences were committed within the environs of the man's family home and the victims were aged between nine and 19 years old when he began abusing them.
Judge Codd said the offending conduct was “opportunistic, but persistent”. She said the offending lasted for a “considerable duration” and involved a “considerable breach of trust”.
She said the court takes into account the emotional and psychological distress that the victims have carried for many years. She said each of them had shown “dignity and courage” by coming to court and giving accounts of the impact this has had on them.
The judge said while the accused's offending is “morally deplorable”, the court must acknowledge it does not feature the most egregious aspects as defined by law at that time. She said that at the time of the offending, the maximum sentence for sexual assault was five years imprisonment.
Judge Codd said the mitigating factors in the case include the accused man's guilty plea, his previous good character, his personal circumstances, his solid work history and the testimonials and character references submitted on his behalf.
She noted that despite his guilty pleas, the accused seems to lack insight and seeks to minimise his actions, meaning deterrence and rehabilitation must feature in this sentence.
Judge Codd sentenced the man to six months imprisonment for his offences against the first victim and four months imprisonment for his offence against the second victim, ordering both sentences to run concurrent to each other.
She also sentenced him to 12 months imprisonment for his offences against the third victim and two-and-a-half years imprisonment for his offences against the fourth victim, ordering both to run consecutive to each other and the previous sentences.
Judge Codd then suspended the final year of the sentences for a total operating sentence of four years imprisonment with the final one-year suspended. She ordered the suspension on strict conditions, including that the man not having any contact with the victims or have unsupervised access to children.
In her victim impact statement, which she read out in court during a previous sentencing hearing, the first victim said when the abuse happened she did not know what to do. She said she was frightened, disgusted, confused, and thought he had done this to humiliate her.
She said it was a nightmare for her and that he was predatory and manipulative. She said she felt being targeted by him created a chain of events of negativity in her life.
The victim said she felt the whole process of reporting has been so difficult. She said that while a trial is hanging over your head, you feel your life is on hold.
She said silence is the friend of the people who do this and she no longer wants her voice silenced.
The second victim said in her statement that she stood before the court to speak her truth which has caused her “unbearable pain”.
She said the accused was an abuser who sought to prey on a young and naïve child. She said he was such a “textbook groomer” he had convinced her she was the only one he had done this with and she was “the disgusting one”.
The victim said she left Ireland for educational opportunities, but deep down she knew it was a way to get away from this “predator”. She said that although he was no longer physically in her life, his damage was done.
She said as an adult she now knows what he did was his fault, not hers. She said for the rest of her life she will continue to have to deal with this pain.
The third victim said in her statement that she repressed the memories of being sexually abused until her younger sister disclosed her abuse around Christmas in 2016.
She said she started having flashbacks, her mind was instantly overcome and her world turned upside down. She said she was overcome by emotion, crying for days and could not process the enormity of what she had been through.
The victim said what she struggled most with is guilt and she has “huge guilt” about her younger sister. She said she knows she should never have been burdened with this, that it was the defendant who did these “despicable crimes”.
She said she had waited five long years to be able to share her truth in the courtroom. She said they were all prepared to be cross-examined, but at the very last moment the accused pleaded guilty and it is very upsetting knowing he might get rewarded for this.
The victim said she hopes they will finally get justice and maybe some day get closure.
The youngest of the four victims said in her statement that the abuse happened for a long time and it developed. She said she was groomed and never got to have her first kiss, that it was taken from her.
She said when she was a child, Christmas was her favourite time of year. She said Christmas was destroyed for her because of the abuse.
The victim said she reported the abuse in 2016 and thought she would feel free. She said it was extremely painful and not at all what she expected it to be.
She said this process should not have been as hard as it was. She said every instance for the last five years could have been avoided with the truth from the beginning.
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.