Former Dublin fireman jailed for having sex with child has sentence cut

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An ex-fireman, who had sex with a 16-year-old girl he met while giving a transition year fire safety course in her school, has had his five-year jail term cut to two years on appeal.

Ron Tulie (58), of Pinevalley Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin, had pleaded guilty to four counts of having sexual intercourse with a child under 17 at the Dublin mountains between June 1 and July 27, 2008.

He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge Desmond Hogan on November 16, 2015.

The Court of Appeal found today that the incorrect maximum sentence was applied to Tulie and he was accordingly resentenced to four years imprisonment with the final two suspended.

Giving background, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the victim first met Tulie when she was in transition year and had taken part in a basic first aid and fire safety course run by him and a colleague in her school.

When the course ended in April or May 2007, Tulie told the injured party and a number of her friends to keep in contact and he gave them his email and Bebo address.

A week or two later, the injured party contacted him. Between February and June 2008, the injured party and two of her friends met him on a number of occasions and went for drives.

At some point in June 2008, she went on her own with him up the Dublin mountains where he committed the first of the offences.

Shortly after their interactions ended in March 2009, she became ill, developed anorexia and required hospital treatment.

Tulie was arrested in September 2012 and subsequenlty charged. He pleaded guilty early in the investigation.

At the time of the offences he was 50 years old, a married man with four grown-up children and had no previous convictions. Mr Justice Sheehan said he had 30 years unblemished service as a member of the fire brigade service.

Mr Justice Sheehan said any person guilty of engaging in a sexual act with a child under the age of 17 is liable to a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. But if that person was in a position of authority, they shall be liable to a maximum term of 10 years.

A person in authority is defined as a parent, step-parent, guardian and so forth as well as a person who is "in the time being" responsible for the education or supervision of the victim.

For the higher penalty to apply, it was necessary for the offender to be in a position of authority at the time the sexual acts took place, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Tulie first had sexual contact wth the girl some months after the course had ended, the court heard.

The Court of Appeal also pointed out that the indictment made no reference to Tulie being a person of authority.

In a situation where the Circuit Court imposed a sentence in excess of the statutory maximum, the Court of Appeal had to conclude that an error had occurred and had to intervene, the judge said.

Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, said four years was the appropriate starting point.

In light of mitigating factors such as Tulie's guilty plea, his lack of previous convictions, the fact that these matters had brought to an end a distinguished career in the fire service, the court likewise suspended the final two years.

He was required to enter into a good behaviour bond for the suspended period.

When asked if he undertook to be so bound, he said "I do".

Ruaidhrí Giblin