Brother jailed for abusing younger sister over two-year period

The court heard that Mrs Kirwan was aged between nine and 11 when the abuse occurred, while her brother was aged between 14 and 16
Brother jailed for abusing younger sister over two-year period

Jessica Magee

A woman who was frequently sexually assaulted by her older brother over a two-year period in the 1970s has told a court that she has struggled every day of her life to survive ever since she was abused.

Paul Brothwood (63) of Apples Road, Wedgewood Estate, Sandyford was on Friday sentenced to eight months in prison after he pleaded guilty to four sample counts of indecently assaulting his sister in their family home at Tibradden Grove, Walkinstown, Dublin between 1973 and 1975.

The maximum penalty available to the court for the offence at that time is two years’ imprisonment.

Catherine Kirwan (57) who waived her anonymity so that her brother could be named, read her victim impact statement aloud in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court and concluded by directly addressing her abuser.

“You, Paul, took my courage from me all those years ago. Today I take it back,” said Mrs Kirwan.

The court heard that Mrs Kirwan was aged between nine and 11 when the abuse occurred, while her brother was aged between 14 and 16.

'Vivid memories'

Detective Garda Fionnuala Delahunty told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that while Mrs Kirwan’s memories of each individual assault were “hazy”, the abuse occurred frequently.

Gda Delahunty said Mrs Kirwan has “vivid memories” of waking up in the bottom bunk as a child to find her brother on top of her.

The court heard Mrs Kirwan has suffered mental health difficulties most of her adult life as a result of being abused.

In her victim impact statement, Mrs Kirwan said she lived a life of “fear and dread” and that the abuse had influenced every aspect of her life, all her relationships, her marriage, every decision she makes and everything she does.

I’m that little girl again, scared and confused. The fear never goes away

“No child should be afraid in their own home. Older brothers should be there to protect their younger siblings, not take away their innocence and their childhood,” she said, adding that she hadn’t felt safe at home and that writing her statement had brought back all the bad memories.

“I’m that little girl again, scared and confused. The fear never goes away,” she said.

Support of husband and daughters

Mrs Kirwan said that only for the support of her husband and daughters, she wouldn’t be alive today.

The court heard she left school after the Inter Cert as she couldn’t concentrate or study and feels that she could have had a career and achieved so much more if she had not been abused.

She suffered severe post-natal depression after the birth of her daughter as she was terrified she would not be able to protect her daughter from abuse, eventually leading to her hospitalisation.

“I took an overdose in an attempt to end my life and all the misery. I thought my baby and my husband would be better off without me. I felt I wasn’t good enough to be a Mam,” she said.

Mrs Kirwan said flashbacks have caused her to feel fearful, trapped and angry and that she was not the wife, mother or grandmother she wanted to be.

"I didn’t deserve what happened to me. I could never just be myself, because I don’t know who I am,” she told the court.


Judge Martin Nolan described the victim impact statement as “very touching” and said it was a tragedy and deeply unfortunate that Mrs Kirwan hadn’t received appropriate help.

“Society at that time didn’t really know how to deal with these situations,” said Judge Nolan, adding that the accused “must have known” that what he was doing was wrong.

“Obviously Mrs Kirwan felt oppressed and has suffered long term consequences, severe depression and anxiety and mental illness,” added the judge.

Judge Nolan said the mitigation in the case was clear in that Brothwood pleaded guilty, cooperated totally with the investigation and expressed remorse, shame and regret which seemed to be genuine. “It is highly unlikely that he will reoffend,” said the judge.

Maurice Coffey SC, defending, said Brothwood had been consumed with guilt for all his adult life and, unusually, did not wish for any testimonials to be put forward on his behalf.

“He accepts that his actions have caused devastation to his sister’s life. He unreservedly apologises to his sister and hopes that today will be of some assistance to her. He will accept any punishment,” said Mr Coffey SC.

The court heard that Brothwood has two minor previous convictions for burglary dating back to the late 1970s.

Mr Coffey said while Brothwood didn’t remember certain details about the abuse, he had accepted his sister’s version without reservation and found it hard to express in words his revulsion at what he did to his sister.

The court heard that Brothwood has been added to the Sex Offenders’ Register.

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, or visit Rape Crisis Help. 

In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112. 

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more