NewsCourts

Wheelchair dependent sex abuser has sentence cut on appeal

Wheelchair dependent sex abuser has sentence cut on appeal

A wheelchair dependent man, jailed for sexually abusing a teenager whose family he visited from America over several summers, has had his prison sentence cut on appeal.

The 78-year-old resident of the United States, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, pleaded guilty at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of sexual assault, two counts of possessing child pornography and one count of attempted buggery of a person under the age of 17 at various locations on dates between 2000 and 2005.

He was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years imprisonment by Judge Rory McCabe on June 14, 2016.

The man, who is largely wheelchair dependent due to ill-health, successfully appealed his sentence today on grounds that the judge did not sufficiently consider his age and the difficulties associated with his medical conditions while in prison.

He was resentenced to five years imprisonment by the Court of Appeal.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the man was a United States resident who regularly visited Ireland. He became friendly with the victim's family and eventually sought permission to take the victim to a swimming pool where he was staying.

While the then 12-year-old victim was getting changed in the dressing room, he was subjected to a relatively minor sexual assault.

The following summer, the victim was taken to the same hotel again on the pretext of being taken to the pool. He was brought to the man's bedroom where he was paid ten pounds to expose himself and allow himself be photographed.

The following year he was again taken to the same hotel and digitally analy penetrated.

The subject matter of the offences came to light in 2009 when the victim was aged 21.

The man was arrested in a hotel room, released without charge but with a file sent to the DPP, and he returned to America from where he was eventually extradited in 2014 – having spent nine months in custody in the US.

The victim described how the impact on him had been severe and it continues to affect him in all aspects. He felt the man had given him a life sentence, the Circuit Court heard.

The man had no previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the “59th minute of the 11th hour”, according to the sentencing judge, while the jury were waiting in their room.

The sentencing judge identified the mitigating factors as his plea of gulty, his age, health difficulties and the fact that he was not an Irish national.

The sentencing judge saw no evidence of remorse or prospect for rehabilitation.

Mr Justice Mahon said the Court of Appeal considered the offences as “very serious”. There was evidence of grooming and the very serious sexual abuse of a teenager.

Mr Justice Mahon said the sentencing of elderly and medically challenged offenders can pose difficulties for the courts requiring particular consideration and, where appropriate, the downwards adjustment of custodial elements that might otherwise be imposed.

While the concept of providing discounts in sentences for elderly offenders in poor health may understandably cause upset and resentment on the part of victims, it was nevertheless an aspect to sentencing which must be respected in the interests of justice, Mr Justice Mahon said.

In this case, the man, who will be 79 in August, suffered from a range of medical difficulties and was now largely wheelchair dependent.

Prison life would “undoubtedly” cause him difficulties and the sentencing judge did not consider this sufficiently, the court held.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, resentenced the man to five years imprisonment.

Had the man's age and ill-health not been factors, the net sentence was likely to have been in or about eight years, Mr Justice Mahon said.