Dublin man who raped grand-niece (12) laughs as he walks free from prison after five years

Hugh Baxter (71), from Hartstown, Dublin, had preyed on his young relative in Dublin and Donegal

Hugh Baxter walks out of prison on crutches before getting into a car

Baxter is driven away from prison in a car

Eamon DillonSunday World

A man who raped his grand-niece when she was 12 laughed and joked with a pal as he walked free from prison this week.

Using a pair of crutches, Hugh Baxter (71) got help to put his belongings in a car after he finished a seven-year sentence imposed in 2017 for the rape of the girl in the 1990s.

The sex predator, from Hartstown, Dublin, had preyed on his young relative in Dublin and Donegal on different occasions in the early 1990s.

This week he appeared happy to have his life restarted, laughing with a pal who wheeled his belongings to a waiting car, before he was driven away from the prison.

His victim waived her right to her anonymity shortly after he was sentenced in an interview with the Donegal Democrat in which she said she wanted the public to be aware of his conviction when he is released.

She bravely took the step a number of weeks after her grand-uncle was convicted of five counts of sexual assault and rape following a Central Criminal Court trial.

“I wanted to waive my anonymity because the way I look at it, I’ve done nothing wrong,” she said at the time from her Donegal home.

“Even seven years doesn’t add up for me, because he can be out walking the streets and nobody is going to know who this man is.

“Children need to be protected against someone like that. And I feel if I didn’t name him I’m still protecting him and I’m still hiding. And I don’t want to hide any more because I’ve nothing to be ashamed about.”

She explained her reasons for speaking out were “to let other people know that regardless of what they had gone through, they can still stand up and have their voice heard, regardless of the time frame”.

Baxter is driven away from prison in a car

Then aged 66, Baxter had not been named in court reports at the time under the rules to protect the victim’s identity until she agreed to allow his name to be published.

He had pleaded not guilty to three counts of sexual assault between November 1992 and December 1994 and two counts of rape between June and September 1994 in Donegal and Dublin.

At the sentence hearing in May 2017, Judge Margaret Heneghan said Baxter had exerted enormous control over his victim and exploited her when she was a “young, defenceless and vulnerable” child.

“Sexual crimes can have exceptional, irrevocable consequences of a devastating nature on the victim, their families and the perpetrator and their families,” she said.

She noted Baxter had expressed no remorse for his offending.

During the trial it was heard that the girl was aged about 10 when he began kissing her and molesting her.

In the summer of 1994, when she was 12, he raped her twice.

The second incident of rape took place when she and her mother had gone to Dublin for a Take That concert and were staying at the home of relatives.

Because Baxter contested the charges the woman had to take the stand as a witness, coming face to face with her abuser.

In a victim impact statement heard in court, the woman said she felt dirty, angry and sick after the assaults. She said she would relive the rapes and abuse over and over again as a child.

She said she now suffers from panic attacks, flashbacks, anxiety and depression and this has affected her ability to work and to hold down relationships.

The woman said she is hyper-vigilant and protective around her children. She panics when they go swimming and will not let anybody else bathe them.

She said this has led to major rows.

She said after her son was born she began seeing her attacker’s face in her son and suffered post-natal depression. She was unable to care for the child and she began counselling to deal with this.

“All my life I have felt that I was living in a prison,” she said, adding that she no longer feels a prisoner of her past because she has come forward about the abuse.

In handing down the seven-year sentence, the judge accepted Baxter would have difficulty in prison given his age.

He had no previous convictions and the court heard he had not come to garda attention since abusing his grand-niece.

Baxter’s defence lawyer handed in a large number of testimonials from family and friends of the defendant.

He told the court Baxter has no other convictions and was of otherwise good character.

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