A man who started sexually abusing his teenage stepdaughter as soon as he came home from honeymoon after marrying her mother has been jailed for eight years.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the victim went to gardaí in 2012 but that investigation of the case “lay in abeyance” for 10 years due to a “clerical error”.
The 46-year-old Dublin man engaged in behaviour that was “grievously reprehensible and shameful” when he abused his step-daughter over 10 years ago, Judge Martin Nolan said on Friday.
The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the complainant, pleaded guilty to seven sample counts of sexually defiling a child at her home on dates between January and December 2010. He also pleaded guilty to sexually exploiting her between October 2009 and March 2011.
The court heard that the girl and her mother went to gardaí in 2012 and the man was interviewed.
However, due to a “clerical error” within the gardaí, the matter “lay in abeyance” for nearly a decade, when the man applied for garda vetting for his job, Elva Duffy BL, prosecuting, told the court.
The investigation was then reopened and the man was arrested and charged, Detective Garda Ronan O'Reilly said. He has five previous convictions, mostly for public order offences.
The girl was 14 years old and the man was almost 20 years older than her when the abuse started immediately after he married her mother, the court heard.
The girl's mother had been with the man for some years prior to this, but nothing untoward ever occurred between him and the girl until he sent her a text of a sexualised nature from his honeymoon, Det Gda O'Reilly said.
When he returned home, he kissed the girl and the abuse escalated from there to oral sex and sexual intercourse, the court heard. The man would abuse the girl before she went to school in the morning and text her telling her to come home early from school.
The girl estimated that he abused her twice a week and had sex with her about 100 times over the time period. She came to realise she was being groomed by the man and felt that he targeted her because she was “naive, vulnerable and very quiet”, the court heard.
The girl was afraid that if she told anyone about the abuse that the family would break up. The man threatened to pack his bags on one occasion.
The abuse ended in March 2011 when the girl told him she wanted it to stop. She told her mother through her friend the following year and the woman told the man to leave the family home and went to the gardaí.
The mother told gardaí she had noticed a change in her husband's behaviour in the period after their wedding, but that she had no idea anything untoward was happening between him and her daughter.
When the mother noticed a high volume of text messages between them on her husband's phone, he told her he was texting the girl about soccer. The pair shared a “common bond” over their love of soccer, the court heard.
In a victim impact statement which she read out to the court, the young woman said she almost lost her family, her friends, her mental health and her life as a result of the abuse. She detailed her struggles with alcohol addiction and suicide attempts in the years since then.
She said she spent years believing the abuse was her fault and only now knows she was “exploited and defiled” by someone she trusted. She said his admissions of guilt were a relief. “From this day I can start healing,” she said.
James Dwyer SC, defending, told the court the man is extremely remorseful and ashamed of his actions. A psychological report put him at a low risk of reoffending, the court heard.
Sentencing the man, Judge Nolan said he “took advantage of the injured party's naivety and innocence for his own selfish desires”.
The man must have known what he was doing was “demonstrably wrong”, the judge said. “He should have known he was damaging this child in a serious way.”
The judge noted that the case was not dealt with as expeditiously as it should have been and this had a negative effect on the complainant. He noted it also had an effect on the man, as accused persons deserve to have their case dealt with in a timely manner.
He handed down a sentence of eight years, noting it would have been slightly higher but for the delays in dealing with the case.
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.