Man sexually assaulted 14-year-old girl in relative's house
A 54-year-old Donegal man who sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl has been given a five-year sentence.
Fergus Carson, of The Green, Main Street in Convoy, Co Donegal, was convicted following a trial earlier this year by a Central Criminal Court jury of six counts of sexual assault of the girl at a relative's house between May and September 2012. The girl has waived her right to anonymity.
Carson, who has no previous convictions, does not accept the verdict of the jury.
Prior to sentencing, Kenneth Fogarty SC, defending, submitted there were photos on the girl's Facebook page which were "inconsistent" with the contention in the victim impact report that she stayed at home and did not go out socially following the assaults.
He said the victim impact report was provided to the court to show how the girl had been affected and it was hugely important that the court could rely on it as factually correct.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt said he took a global view of victim impact statements and while it was important to take them on board, they were not the "be all and end all."
He said the effect of the offending on a young girl was "pretty obvious" and he did not think this particular statement was "out of the ordinary."
Mr Justice Hunt said Carson had abused his position of having access to the house where she was staying and took advantage of the fact he knew her family would be away at certain times.
He said there had been a cluster of assaults over the five months with the most serious involving one instance of digital penetration of the girl's vagina.
He noted this was the first time Carson had come into conflict with the law and that he would now be obliged to serve a custodial sentence at a relatively advanced point in his life.
Mr Justice Hunt said the opprobrium of being a sex offender with its attendant shame and publicity would continue after the sentence ends and the fact it happened within a small community would be difficult for everyone in the future.
He noted the offences had a serious effect on the girl in the context of normal adolescent development which was undoubtedly skewed, as well as the general effects one would expect.
Judge Hunt imposed a five-year sentence but suspended the final 15 months for two years. He ordered Carson to undergo 12 months post-release supervision.
Garda Michelle Kelly told Conor Devally SC, prosecuting, that the girl had known Carson all her life and he knew what age she was. She was alone in a relative's house when Carson let himself in. He kissed her but she felt it was not in greeting and was uncomfortable.
She described how Carson later placed his hands down her trousers and kissed her passionately.
He also placed her hand on his penis and said she should be doing something for him.
On the final occasion she was upstairs changing a sheet on a bed when she heard Carson come into the house. He came upstairs, pushed her onto the bed and got on top of her.
Afterwards she tried to keep away from the accused but continued to see him. Her mother became aware of what had happened and Carson was arrested. He denied that the events had occurred.
In her victim impact report the woman said giving evidence in the trial had been the hardest thing she had ever done and the last four years had been "hell". She said she felt "inhibited" in her locality and did not go out socially.
She said that the reaction to the complaint locally had been unwelcome and had made life difficult.
Gda Kelly agreed with defence counsel that Carson had engaged fully with gardai during interview and denied involvement.
Mr Fogarty told the court that Carson maintained his innocence and asked for leniency.
He said Carson had lived his whole life without coming to the attention of gardai and these allegations had been devastating to him and his family. He said there had been a rift in the small community but that Carson's "nearest and dearest" were supporting him.