Judge commends bravery of two sex abuse victims

Justice Alan Mahon
Justice Alan Mahon

A judge has commended the bravery of two victims for coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse.

"It is hoped that the pain and distress they have suffered has been eased by so doing,” Mr Justice Alan Mahon said in a judgment dismissing an appeal against the severity of a man's 14 year prison sentence.

The 53-year-old man had pleaded guilty to one count of rape and six counts of sexual assault of his sister at their family home in Tipperary between 1978 and 1981. He also pleaded guilty to five counts of defilement of a child, one count of oral rape and three counts of sexual assault of his niece at different locations around the county between 2005 and 2007.

The indictment had contained 67 counts in total.

The first victim, the man's sister, was aged between five and nine years old when the man was between 15 and 19. The second victim, the man's teenage niece, was abused for three years when she was 14 and he was in his 40s.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy imposed consecutive sentences of seven years each for the offences against the two victims, suspending the final two years, on July 6, 2015.

The man had appealed his conviction on grounds that the judge erred in his assessment of the gravity of the offences and failed to afford any sufficient weight to the mitigating factors.

But his appeal was dismissed today/yesterday(FRIDAY), with the Court of Appeal holding that the sentences were “reasonable and appropriate”.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the commission of a series of sexual offences involving young children has been all too common in recent decades.

Comparing cases and the sentences imposed in the context of consistency is a difficult exercise, Mr Justice Mahon said, as there is often a significant variation in the facts of the many cases that come before the courts.

In an effort to provide a degree of justice to the victims of serious sexual abuse and in order to deter such offending, the courts, in general, take a tough line in relation to sentencing for these types of offences, Mr Justice Mahon said.

He said the sentences imposed in this case were “reasonable and appropriate”.

Furthermore, the decision to direct an element of consecutive sentencing was also justified because these were two very separate periods of offending and with a gap of 23 years between them, the judge said.

The abuse was systematic and calculated and has greatly damaged the lives not only of the victims, but also their wider families, Mr Justice Mahon said. 

The extent of the damage caused to both victims' lives was all too evident from the victim impact statements, he said.

"Their bravery in coming forward is admirable, and it is to be hoped that the pain and distress they have suffered has been eased by so doing."

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, dismissed the appeal.