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Dublin man engaged in sexual relationship with 12-year-old stepsister

Judge Nolan imposed a four year sentence with the final two and a half suspended
Judge Nolan imposed a four year sentence with the final two and a half suspended

A man has been jailed for 18 months for carrying on a sexual relationship with his step-sister which began when she was 12 and he was 16.

Russell Ward (23) was charged with four counts of defilement of the girl resulting from regular sexual intercourse between the two when the girl would stay in her father's Dublin home at weekends.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the girl developed a crush on Ward and that he initially told her nothing could happen between them. However he later started having sex with her.

“She never said no because she liked Mr Ward and wanted him to like her back,” the prosecution said.

Ward of Shrewsbury Road, Shankill, Dublin pleaded guilty to four counts of defilement in his home between 2009 and 2011.

At the sentencing hearing the now 19 year old victim said that Ward “has stolen all my teenage years” and that she had self-harmed and attempted suicide on several occasions. She said she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered from anxiety and depression.

She told Judge Martin Nolan that she had to isolate herself from everyone else, especially her family and that she became distant from her friends because she had to grow up so much faster than them.

“I'm never going to not struggle with this,” she said. “I don't know if I'll ever get over it.”

Judge Nolan said that “the striking characteristic of the case is the youth of both parties”. He noted there was no force involved in the sexual activity but that the girl was unable to give consent because of her age.

“Mr Ward is well capable of leading a good and useful life but I must punish him for what he did,” the judge said, adding that it might be open to him to impose a non-custodial sentence if the sex had stopped when the Ward was 16 or 17.

“But he continued after that when he must have known that what he was doing was grossly reprehensible and extremely wrong.”

Judge Nolan imposed a four year sentence with the final two and a half suspended. He ordered Ward to undergo 18 months post-release supervision and that he be registered as a sex offender. At the request of the victim, Judge Nolan also removed restrictions on publishing Ward's identity.

Garda Alan O'Connell told prosecuting counsel Anne Rowland BL that Ward and the victim were close and that when she was ten or eleven she sent him a note telling him she had a crush on him.

Ward came to her and told her it was a “bad situation.” Her mother later found the note and warned her that “it wasn't on.”

However over the next few years the two became closer. Ward would put his hand around her and stroke her thigh and she was “constantly trying to get his attention and hang around with him.”

One night on holidays they began playing “strip blackjack” on Ward's suggestion. This led to the first instance of sexual contact which involved digital penetration.

Over the following months Ward had vaginal, oral and anal sex with the girl. On some occasions she was in so much pain she wanted to cry out but didn't. From 2010 the sex became more frequent and would happen at least once a month.

During this time the girl's mother found her journal in which she wrote she had lost her virginity to Ward. The girl told her mother it was a once off and that she initiated the sex. This was to protect Ward, she later told gardaí.

On another occasion Ward came into her room while drunk and said “I'm sorry for what I've put you through these last few years.” He then had her perform oral sex on him.

The defilement came to light in 2012 when she made a statement to gardaí. Ward initially denied having sex with her but later entered a guilty plea.

Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC said Ward has a job in a bookmakers and has no other convictions. He submitted that he was a child himself when the abuse started and that he was at a low risk of re-offending.

Counsel added that Ward had started group therapy and wanted to write an apology letter to the victim.