Declan Brennan and Fiona Ferguson
An Offaly man who as a teenager abused two boys in foster care in his family home has been given a four-year prison sentence with the final two and a half years suspended.
The 42-year-old man was convicted after a trial at the Central Criminal Court of four counts of oral rape on various dates between May 1995 and December 1998.
The accused, who was aged between 15 and 18 at the time, was also convicted of eight counts of sexual assault of the victim, who was then aged between 11 and 14.
He was further convicted of four sexual assaults of the victim's older brother on dates in 1995 and 1996. The child in that case was aged from 12 and 13 at the time.
The offending took place in the accused man’s family home in a town in Co Offaly. The court heard the man now accepts the verdicts of the jury and said he is sorry.
Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy noted the court must sentence the man not as an adult, but as the 15 to 17-year-old who committed the offences. She said the fact of him being a juvenile at the time and the fact of his intellectual functioning being in the low range reduced culpability.
The judge said the acknowledgement of guilt even post-conviction had some mitigating weight as “there could be no whispering” that the jury got it wrong or some mistake had been made.
She noted he had also led a productive and useful life for the last 22 years since the offending and had indicated a willingness to engage with the Probation Service and rehabilitation.
The judge said the court considered there to be a further mitigating factor in the failure of the authorities to deal with the matter when a complaint was first made to the HSE by one of the victims in 2001.
She said it would have spared the victim distress which led to him feeling unable to go to gardaí until 2014.
The judge said this failure by the authorities to address the matter in 2001 not only caused distress to the victim, but has also caused prejudice to the accused. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” she remarked.
She said as a consequence the man was now facing the court as a 42-year-old man with family responsibilities when it should have been dealt with in 2001.
Ms Justice Murphy imposed a sentence of four years on each of the rape counts and 18 months on the sexual assault offences. In light of the mitigation, she suspended the final two and a half years on strict conditions.
During a sentence hearing earlier this month, the court heard that the two victims were brothers who were placed in foster care with the defendant's family in 1995.
The accused told the Probation Service that at the time he felt resentful about sharing his home and was being bullied at school and finding school difficult.
He said he identified with the younger boy and believed they had a special bond. He said he then groomed this child and what started out as childish games of wrestling between them developed into sexual assaults.
The victim went to gardaí in 2014 and made statements describing sexual assaults that began as kissing and developed into “heavier and heavier” acts of abuse.
This culminated in the older boy getting the child to perform oral sex on him repeatedly and regularly.
The victim told gardaí in 2014 that in his mind it was consensual and that “he didn't know any better”.
In his victim impact report, he said the accused took advantage of him in a cruel way in order to explore his own sexuality.
“I was used as an experiment by that man to see what his sexuality was. I was just a sad and lonely gay boy desperate to be loved.
“He did not want to be gay so he wanted me to be a woman. He wanted to be straight but have me as a sex toy for his satisfaction,” he said.
The victim said that he now finds it difficult to enjoy a healthy sexual life with his own husband, saying that “sex for me is emotionless”.
In his statement, the second victim said he turned to drink in his early 20s to hide his low self-esteem and said he still suffers from night terrors. He said he has difficulty showing emotions to his wife now.
Defence counsel Bernard Madden SC told the court that a forensic psychological assessment placed his client at a low risk of sexual reoffending. He said his client now accepts the jury verdict and is sorry for and trying to take responsibility for his actions.
Ms Justice Murphy noted that initially the man's family believed that he was wrongly convicted. Mr Madden said the man's wife is now aware that her husband accepts the guilty verdict.
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.