A man who raped a woman described hitherto as his “best friend” since the age of 13 and to whom he was “like a brother” will be sentenced next month.
The man, who is aged 27 and cannot be named in order to protect the identity of his victim, was charged with a single count of rape on November 7th, 2018. He was convicted by a jury on November 15th, 2021.
He had pleaded not guilty and, while accepting the verdict of the jury, the Central Criminal Court was told at his sentencing hearing on Monday that the man continued to maintain he was unaware the victim did not consent to having sex with him.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, the woman, who was 21 years old at the time, described the man as having been her confidant, best friend and like a brother to her.
"He was my safe place, he was my protector," said her statement.
The effect of the rape had shattered her, she said. In the statement, read to the court by Eilis Brennan SC, prosecuting, the woman said that prior to being raped, she had been a confident, out-going person but since then had become "cagey" around other people.
"One person's awful actions has me questioning all actions," she said.
The rape had not resulted in physical injury to the woman, but there had been psychological damage. She had attended counselling at the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and was prone to vomiting from stress.
The rape happened in the woman's bedroom. A prosecuting garda told Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy that the woman had been out socialising and contacted the man, inviting him to join her.
They were best friends since the age of 13, said the garda, and the man was regarded by the woman's parents as a son and he often stayed over at their house. Their relationship was platonic, said the garda.
After leaving a pub after midnight, the man went home with the woman and was making food for them both when the woman went to her bedroom and lay on the bed. She fell asleep but woke when the man was having sex with her.
She reacted by saying to him: "No, I don't want that".
The man stopped and they both fell asleep. Next day, the man acted "completely normal" and no one said anything, said the garda. However, some days later, the woman told a friend what had happened. In text exchanges, the man admitted what he had done and on December 8th 2018, the woman made a statement to gardaí.
Questioned by gardaí and in evidence, the man accepted the woman had not consented to sex but he claimed not to have known this at the time.
The man's counsel, Michael O'Higgins, SC, said that prior to the rape, the man had been of good character and was a person of good standing in his community. It was a "sad case that had had disastrous consequences for all those involved", said Mr O'Higgins.
The man had stopped immediately when asked, said Mr O'Higgins. He was "deeply saddened at the grief that he has visited upon his former friend" and was "so, so sorry" that his actions had broken his relationship with the woman.
Five character references from family, friends and neighbours of the man referred to him being hard-working and polite, reliable and trustworthy, and that the rape, which those writing the references accepted had occurred, was surprising to them as it was out of character and he had never been violent.
Ms Brennan and Mr O'Higgins agreed that the "ordinary headline sentence" for the offence was seven years imprisonment, which Mr O'Higgins then argued might be reduced closer to five years in the particular circumstances of the case.
Ms Justice Murphy said she had a lot to consider and would pronounce sentence on May 13th.
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.