Claire Henry and Eimear Dodd
A man who pleaded guilty to the rape and sexual assault of his younger siblings has been handed a suspended prison sentence after his victims asked the court not to imprison him.
The accused, who cannot be named to protect the anonymity of his victims, pleaded guilty to one count of oral rape of his younger sister and one count of sexual assault of his younger brother on unknown dates between 1994 and 1997.
Imposing sentence at the Central Criminal Court on Monday, Ms Justice Karen O'Connor said she would suspend a three-and-half-year prison sentence in full due to the “wholly exceptional” circumstances of the case, which included the accused's expressions of remorse and the victims' request to the court.
Ms Justice O'Connor said it was a “breach of trust” by an older brother towards his siblings.
She said both victims had behaved in a “dignified manner” and showed “compassion” towards their brother.
Ms Justice O'Connor noted the offending took place in the family home, which “should have been a safe haven”.
She noted the mitigating factors include the guilty plea, his expressions of remorse, the accused's lack of previous convictions and the fact he has not come to negative garda attention since.
Ms Justice O'Connor said the accused is self-employed and has the support of his partner. He also suffered a serious injury in 2009.
The investigating garda told Anne-Marie Lawlor, SC, prosecuting, that the first complainant was aged between seven and 10 at the time while the accused was aged between 13 and 16.
The court heard that the offences occurred in the family home where the girl shared a bunk bed with her sister. On the night in question, the accused suggested a sleepover, and he got into the bottom bunk while she slept on the top bunk.
The young girl woke to find her brother kneeling on top of her. After the sexual assault, the girl went to the bathroom and found blood in her underwear.
On a separate occasion, the accused put a duvet over his younger sister's head, and she was forced to give him oral sex.
The court heard that when the girl was 14 years old, she told her then-boyfriend what had happened but she did not want to break up the family, so didn’t report the incidents until 2015.
The two brothers shared a bedroom and had two separate single beds. When the male victim was aged 12 to 13, he woke up to find his brother pulling the duvet off him.
The accused then put his brother's penis into his mouth. The young boy froze with shock and punched his brother in the head when he realised what was happening.
The court heard on another occasion, the young boy was doing his homework at his desk in his bedroom. His brother came into the room and showed him papers he had printed off about hypnosis. The accused asked if he could hypnotise him and got him to stand up at the desk. The accused then pushed his brother onto the desk, pulled down his trousers, and anally raped him.
The victim began to bang his hands on the desk and shouted out, and the ordeal lasted about one minute. The boy went to the bathroom and cried. He was in pain after the assault.
Many years later, the two brothers were at a social event when the younger brother had a flashback to the incidents of sexual assault.
The court heard that text messages and handwritten notes sent by the accused acknowledged the incidents did take place and his responsibility for them.
On March 23rd, 2017, the accused was arrested and asserted his right to silence, but acknowledged that the hand-written notes were his.
Victim impact statements were handed into court and read aloud by the prosecuting barrister. The first statement from the sister said: “You were my big brother, someone who should have protected their baby sister”. “I have suffered with anxiety, depression,” she said.
In the second victim impact statement, the brother said his relationships with family members have been affected. “I don’t think how I will ever understand how our older brother could do this to us,” he said.
In both victim impact statements, the siblings said that as the accused has taken responsibility for his actions, they asked the court not to impose a custodial sentence on their older brother.
Ms Justice O'Connor noted the accused was 13 at the time of the offending and said she would sentence him as a child.
She set a headline sentence of seven years in relation to the rape count, which she reduced to three-and-half years taking the mitigating factors into consideration.
In relation to the sexual assault count, Ms Justice O'Connor set a headline sentence of four and a half years. She imposed a two-year sentence to run concurrently with the first sentence.
Ms Justice O'Connor said the accused's guilty plea meant the victims did not have to face cross-examination during trial.
Ms Justice O'Connor noted this was an unusual case as the Director of Public Prosecutions initially decided against prosecution, but this was overturned on appeal.
A judicial review was also sought in relation to the accused's age at the time of the offending, though he never sought to retract his admissions.