Man jailed for 'prolonged and intense' sexual assault of step-daughter gets sentence reduced

Court of Appeal
Court of Appeal

A man jailed for the “prolonged and intensive” sexual assault of his teenaged step-daughter, who grew up believing he was her father, has had his 10 year prison sentence reduced to seven on appeal.

William Coster (45), with an address at Boghall Cottages, Boghall Road, Bray, had pleaded guilty to a number of sample counts of sexually assaulting his step-daughter but had denied additional counts of sexual assault as well as 35 charges of rape. The victim,who is now in her mid-twenties, was aged betwen 12 and 16 years old at the time.

A jury at the Central Criminal Court acquitted him of all rape charges but convicted him of all sexual assault charges and he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by Mr Justice Paul Carney on January 20, 2014.

Coster personally confirmed to the Court of Appeal this moring that he no longer wished to proceed with an appeal against conviction and that he accepted the jury's verdict.

He successfully appealed his sentence with the three-judge court holding that his 10-year sentence was “out of line” with comparable cases.

Giving judgment Mr Justice George Birmingham said the victim, who had waived her right to anonymity so that Coster could be identified, grew up believing that he was her father when in fact he was her step-father.

She described him banging on the bedroom floor of their home and when she responded to this banging, he would feel her breasts and penetrate her vagina. She said the abuse started in 2002 and ended just after her sixteenth birthday.

When first confronted in November 2008, he admitted inappropriate sexual behaviour and in court he pleaded guilty to five representative counts of sexual assualt, Mr Jusitce Birmingham said.

However, at trial, he admitted guilt in respect of the first two years of the five year period but denied offending during the final three years. Ultimately the jury convicted him, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

At the sentence hearing, the court was told that he had been a good provider for his family but as a consequence of his offending, his marriage broke down and he had not had any contact with three of his biological children since, the judge said.

Mr Justice Birmingham said that after the matter first came to light, there was a delay lasting a number of years which had a significant impact on Coster. In 2009, he suffered a severe psychotic episode which lead to his hospitalisation for almost six months.

The sentencing judge had regard to the inherent gravity of the offending, the breach of trust, disparity in age, multiplicity of offending and the effect on the victim as aggravating factors.

In mitigation, the sentencing judge took account of the delay, the early pleas which were maintained, the history of being a good provider, an attitude of remorse and the fact he was required to vacate the family home.

Mr Justice Birmingham said Coster's sentence, viewed in the context of sentences imposed in comparable cases, seemed to be “somewhat out of line and indeed appreciably so”.

There had to be some concern that the sentencing process may have been influenced by the more serious allegations in respect of which not guilty verdicts were delivered, the judge said.

Mr Justice Birmingham said any offence involving the sexual abuse of a child was serious and in this case, an “additional dimension of seriousness” was that “she believed he was her own father”.

The offending was “prolonged and intensive”. It had a deep, profound and lasting impact on the vicitm and required a significant sentence, the judge said.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, imposed seven year sentences on all counts to run concurrently.