The parents of two small children who were sexually abused by their uncle while he was babysitting them have described the attacks as “a parent's worst nightmare”.
The 26-year-old Cavan man, who cannot be named to protect the anonymity of the child victims, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to sexually exploiting a four-year-old girl and raping her older brother during the summer of 2014 at their home in the county.
The defendant is the half-brother of the children's mother and was aged 19 when he was left babysitting the children on a number of occasions.
Justice Paul McDermott said the offences were a deep betrayal of the trust understandably placed in the defendant by the children and their mother. He said the disparity in age, the fact the offending took place in their own home and the fact that he told the victims to keep it a secret were all aggravating factors.
He noted the mitigating factors included the man's genuine expressions of remorse, his early pleas of guilty, and the difficulties in his own childhood and his continuing difficulties
Justice McDermott imposed a sentence of four and half years with the last year suspended for three years on condition the defendant not commit any further offences and that he engage with future assessments for sex offender treatment programmes.
He also ordered that he not be in the company of any child unless another adult was present and that he make no contact with the victims in this case.
Detective Sharon Walsh told Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, that in August 2014 the youngest child told her mother she was worried about telling something in case her mother became angry. She then told her that the man had sexually assaulted her.
The boy's mother contacted her father, and he confronted the defendant who said he had watched porn with the girl. The child's mother agreed not to go to authorities after the defendant agreed to go to therapy, and she ended his babysitting access.
In 2018 the woman's son was aged 11 when he told his mother that his uncle had also sexually assaulted him four years earlier. The court heard the boy had somehow suppressed the memory and only realised in later years that what his uncle had done was inappropriate.
He said that he felt silly and humiliated and felt he had let himself down.
Gardaí were called in, and child specialist interviewers spoke to both children.
'A parents' worst nightmare'
The court heard there was a delay in prosecuting the case as the defendant had moved to the UK but returned to Ireland in March 2020 and was arrested. He told gardaí that his mental health was drastic at the time and said “I wasn't wise to mental health”.
In a victim impact report the older child stated that he was shocked at the age of 11 when he suddenly remembered the assault.
He said that it took him a long time to move on from the attack and said he was in a much better place now.
The children's mother told the court that the abuse was “a parents' worst nightmare”.
“As parents we try to protect our children. We trusted [defendant] to protect and look after the children. He did the complete opposite,” she said.
She said her son found it very hard to cope for a while and said it was “so upsetting to see my child suffering”.
Roisin Lacey SC, defending, said that her client's mother was an alcoholic and that he was born with foetal alcohol syndrome which left him considerable physical and cognitive deficits.
She said his early childhood was marked by violence, including one incident of his mother chasing him with a knife and another of her banging his head against a wall.
Counsel said the defendant had written a letter to the court in which he expressed remorse for the pain and damage caused by him.
“Every time I think of what I did, I feel sick. I broke the hearts of those who trusted me,” he stated.
In a testimonial his father described “a loving and caring son” and confirmed that he was born with foetal alcohol syndrome.
The court heard the man had a working history including employment as a factory operative and in a supermarket and that he was a volunteer with some charities.
Ms Lacey outlined a psychological report which detailed hypersexual thoughts during his late childhood, anxiety and confusion over his sexual orientation, and a feeling that he is unable to develop intimate relationships.
Counsel said the report also detailed that her client's childhood abuse had left him with phobias and trauma and that he has had suicidal ideation. She said her client is highly motivated to accept his guilt and to deal with his issues.
She said after the abuse incidents came to light her client was “immediately ostracised” from members of his family.
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.