Sex offender who abused young niece has sentence reduced on appeal

Harrowing: The victim was aged between seven and 11 and McCall between 16 and 21
Harrowing: The victim was aged between seven and 11 and McCall between 16 and 21

A Carlow born former US Marine jailed for sexually abusing and attempting to rape his niece has had his 12 year prison sentence reduced to 10 on appeal.

Eamonn McCall (42), with an address on North Circular Road, Dublin 7, had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to indecently assaulting the girl and attempting to rape her in the family home in Carlow Town on dates between April 1990 and December 1993.

He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Mr Justice Paul Carney on December 9 2013.

Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal today, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the offending occurred when the victim was aged between seven and 11 and McCall between 16 and 21.

It was a “striking and indeed shocking aspect” that the victim dated one of the offences to the occasion on which she made her first Communion, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

The four offences involved oral rape, digital pentration, forced maturbation and finally attempted vaginal rape.

The sentencing judge, the late Mr Justice Paul Carney, who had an “extraordinary range of experience” in this regard, according to Mr Justice Birmingham, commented that it was one of the most harrowing victim impact statements ever to have been read in court.

“For him to make that comment is entirely understandable,” Mr Justice Birmingham said.

The sentecing court was told that McCall thought frequently of the offending with remorse but the victim impact statement took issue with the extent to which this was genuine, the judge said.

He had at one stage served in the US Marines, had encountered mental health difficulties and developed a heroin addiction. Despite these, he managed to overcome and hold down various jobs, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

McCall's barrister, Mary Rose Gearty SC, submitted that the selection of 12 years imprisonment in respect of the attempted rape did not accord with other sentences imposed by the courts.

Ms Gearty said everybody in the country knew that the same judge had just imposed a 12 year sentence on Patrick O'Brien for the regular daily rape of his daughter Fiona Doyle.

The issue in O'Brien's case, which was “all over the newspapers at the time,” Ms Gearty said, was not the selection of 12 years but that nine years of the sentence had been suspended.

O'Brien's case, involving regular rape, was far worse in terms of the volume of offending behaviour. In McCall's case there was a single victim and four defined offences not years of daily abuse, Ms Gearty said.

She said the tarrifs of punishment for years of daily sexual abuse appeared to be 12 to 14 years in reference to cases reviewed by the Court of Appeal and she asked where the court would go if it imposed 12 years for McCall's behaviour.

Ms Gearty further submitted that the trial judge operated on a mistaken understanding of what the maximum penalty was for sexual assault.

Mr Justice Birmingham said sexual abuse in the fashion described was “by any standard an extremely serious offence”.

However, he said the Court of Appeal took the view that the sentences imposed did not accord with other sentences that have been imposed by the courts.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the Court of Appeal had the benefit of a prison governor's report which indicated McCall's progress while in custody and he had unequivocally indicated his willingness to participate in a sex offenders program.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the 12 year sentence should be reduced to 10 with the two year suspension remaining in place.

McCall's concurrent 10 year sentence for indecent assault was also reduced to eight.

Arrangements put in place for post release supervision remained unaltered.

Ruaidhrí Giblin