Five men who took part in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in a car in the midlands have been jailed for a total of 66 years.
Justice Tara Burns said the men, who were aged 17 to 19 at the time, “behaved like animals” on the night of December 27th, 2016. She said there was “not a shred of humanity or respect” in their actions.
She said the rapes and sexual assaults committed by the men involved “degradation of the most extreme nature,” and that even without the use of violence, “the act of a gang rape is offending behaviour of the most serious kind”.
The judge said in this case “the gang rape was accompanied by filming” where a “gang of men” stood around outside a car in which a young woman was being violated.
“This depravity is absolutely shocking,” she said.
The attacks happened on the night of St Stephen’s Day going into the following morning. The victim and her friends had gone into Tullamore, Co Offaly to celebrate the night.
At the end of the night, the victim became separated from her friends and decided to try to walk to the home of another friend who lived nearby. She heard someone calling her name out from a passing car and wrongly concluded it was her friends driving back in to pick her up, so she got into the car.
The victim told the Central Criminal Court on Monday that she still blames herself for this “stupid” decision.
On Thursday, Justice Tara Burns told the woman that “she wasn't stupid or naïve,” and that it was reasonable for her to assume that boys her own age from the local area would get her home safely.
“She was entitled to assume that society works in a civilised fashion. Little did she know that she had gotten into a car with people devoid of respect for her or for themselves.”
The court heard that before picking up the victim on the night in question, the car had driven 15 times around Tullamore town with the occupants shouting at people from open windows. The court heard one of the men had recognised the victim from social media, but none of the occupants in the car knew her personally and she knew none of them.
Once in the car, the girl realised she didn't know any of the occupants. She asked them to drop her to a place in the county but instead the car was driven along back roads towards nearby Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath and the men began sexually assaulting her on the journey.
The car parked at a remote dry dock at Kilbeggan. Gabriel Gomes Da Rocha (24) of Mount Armstrong, Rahan, Tullamore, Marcos Vinicius De Silva Umbelino (22) of Riverview, Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath, and Conor Byrne (24) of Ballybeg, Moate, Co Westmeath then each took turns raping her one after another.
Ethan Nikolaou (23) of Brosna Park, Kilbeggan was the last man to get back into the car. He sexually assaulted her after grinding naked against her.
After two of the men were dropped off the car was then driven to the Whitehall car park in Tullamore. There she pleaded to be let out but the remaining men kept asking for a threesome to which he kept saying no.
The men stopped her leaving the car and Eduardo Dias Ferreira Filho (24) of Riverview, Kilbeggan orally raped her at the same time as Da Rocha raped her in what was his second rape of the night.
Justice Burns imposed a sentence of 15 years on Umbelino. She sentenced Ferreira Filho to an 18-year prison term.
She sentenced Da Rocha, who had raped the teenager twice, to 20 years. She sentenced Nikolaou to seven years’ imprisonment for the sexual assault carried out in the context of the gang rapes.
She suspended the final year of all these sentences. Justice Burns also imposed concurrent sentences on some of the men for sexual assaults carried out during the car journey from Tullamore to Kilbeggan.
She sentenced Byrne to 12 years and suspended the final two years, taking into consideration the fact that he had pleaded guilty to rape rather than go to trial.
After a trial at the Central Criminal Court than ran from March to April a jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts on a number of charges from sexual assault to rape.
Apart from Byrne, the defendants had denied the charges and had asserted during the trial that any sexual activity was consensual. Lawyers for Da Rocha, Ferreira Filho and Nikolaou told the court on Monday that their clients now accept the jury verdict and were remorseful.
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