NewsCrime Desk

"Rehab for rapists is a waste of money" says victim of horror attack

Rapist Trevor Byrne
Rapist Trevor Byrne

A WOMAN raped by a serial attacker who went on to reoffend a number of times has said she does not think sex offenders can be rehabilitated.

Dublin woman Debbie Cole (47), was raped by sicko Robert Melia (50), outside her home in Ballymun in 1989, in an ordeal that lasted for an hour-and-a-half.


Robert Melia

She thought she was going to be killed by Melia following the horrific attack.

Before his sentencing, a garda told her Melia came from a respectable family and he had basically made a mistake with too much drink on him.

As a result she asked the judge to be lenient in her victim impact statement and he was sentenced to six years in 1991.

After his release, he went on to sexually assault three women in 1997 and was also jailed in 2015 after raping a woman in a hotel on Dorset Street who jumped out an upstairs window to get away after he told her he was going to kill her.

Debbie, who now lives in Mullingar, has been campaigning for repeat offenders like her attacker to get longer sentences.

She said: “When Robert Melia gets out from this sentence now he’s going to be in his early 50s.

That’s still young enough to commit these Victim slams efforts to change reoffenders as new bill proposed crimes again and again.

Society needs to be protected from these people.” She said that the fact just 19 of the 60 sex offenders released from Irish jails last year took part in sex offender treatment programmes showed many didn’t have any remorse.

“That shows no remorse. Maybe somebody who would feel bad for what they have done would avail of the treatment, but those 41 are saying ‘screw you, I won’t get caught the next time’.”

Other serial attackers include Dublin man Paul Moore – who has been jailed six times for sexual offences over the last 25 years and is currently awaiting sentence for his latest attack – and Trevor Byrne, who has been jailed on three occasions for different rapes, including one just hours after he was released from prison.

Debbie has been working with Independent TD Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, who has brought forward a bill which would see sex offenders get longer sentences for repeat offences.

Boxer, who is the new Minister of State at the Office of Public Works, wants to see them get at least three quarters of the maximum sentence when someone reoffends.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has backed the proposals and Boxer is hopeful they can become law by the end the year.

Debbie said she was extremely grateful to Boxer for bringing forward the bill.

“I’m very happy, especially now I know Leo Varadkar is making it a priority. In 2015, when I first started the campaign, the guy who raped me was back in the papers again for the assault he’s now serving time for.

“The judge referred to him as another Larry Murphy. Every time he’s released from prison, he just goes on and reoffends again.” She added that she was not sure if sex offenders can ever be rehabilitated.

“Kevin was saying he will be talking to Justice about trying to have it mandatory for sex offenders to do a rehabilitation programme.

Personally, I think it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money because I don’t think that sex offenders can be rehabilitated.”

She said it was particularly insulting to victims when sex attackers get suspended sentences.

“It is the biggest insult. It’s so hard for a rape victim to tell anyone they’ve been raped. There’s still that element of mentality in Ireland of, ‘what were they wearing?’ and all that.

“They might eventually tell close family and friends and then maybe they’ll tell the Gardaí.

“If the Gardaí manage with the DPP to get the case to court – which is such a battle in itself – and then after a trial the person is found guilty, that is like ‘oh my god, somebody who doesn’t know me believes me’.

“It’s such a weight off you. For that person to say ‘yes we believe you, but we’re not going to send him to prison’, that’s saying we believe you, but we don’t think you were as affected by it as you say you are.”

Repeat offender Paul Moore

She said as gardaí don’t have the resources to monitor former offenders on a constant basis, she is hopeful the proposed changes to the legislation will make a difference.

She said she did not think anyone would oppose it.

“There were a couple of people asking if I foresaw any political opposition to this and I think the only people who would oppose it would be the people committing those crimes,” she said.

“Time will tell if Leo is a man of his word, but he’s starting off on a positive footing by putting survivors first. There’s hope for the future.”

Boxer agrees and is delighted that the new Taoiseach has put the proposals high on his agenda.

“This protects society and is a step forward. I have to give credit to the new Taoiseach. He did sit down to discuss it and look at the bill and say it’s an important piece of legislation,” he said.

“We have to look at justice when it comes to predators, monsters, whatever you want to call them, on our streets.”