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sibling abuse Dublin man who subjected sister sexual, emotional and physical abuse jailed

The attacks took place at the family home between 1979 and 1982

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The Central Criminal Court (stock photo)

The Central Criminal Court (stock photo)

The Central Criminal Court (stock photo)

A man who subjected his sister to years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse during their childhood has been jailed for three years and nine months.

The now 56-year-old man, who can not be named for legal reasons, was convicted of 11 counts of raping his sister at their family home in Dublin on dates between 1979 and 1982 following a Central Criminal Court trial last July.

The woman told the court in her victim impact statement that she had been an innocent girl whose childhood was stolen by her older brother. She was nine and her brother was 14 years old when he first raped her.

Sentencing the man today, Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy that had he been an adult when he committed the offences, she would have set a headline sentence of 10 to 12 years. However, she said she must sentence him as a juvenile because he was aged between 14 and 16 when he abused his sister.

“The effect on her was devastating,” the judge said. “As a young girl, she lived in fear and terror of the accused in her own home.” As the older brother, the judge noted: “He had control and he kept the complainant in fear.”

At a sentence hearing earlier this week, Mr Heneghan said his client would like to acknowledge the verdict of the jury and apologise to his sister, other siblings and his children. He said this was an acceptance of the verdict of the jury and acknowledgement that not only was there a victim in the case but there was also “a wider fallout.”

When Ms Justice Murphy asked what his client was apologising for, Mr Heneghan said it was for what she (the complainant) may feel she deserves an apology for. He told the court there would be no appeal of the convictions.

Today, Ms Justice Murphy said this apology appeared “more tactical than heartfelt”.

“It is not a true acceptance of responsibility, nor is it a true expression of remorse,” she said. It did not acknowledge the damage done to the complainant, she said.

The judge noted that in intrafamilial cases such as this, the acceptance of responsibility was even more important. “Sexual offending causes deep rifts in families,” she said, adding that in this case, some family members had sided with the brother and others with the sister.

“An acceptance of responsibility might allow these rifts to heal,” the judge said.

A number of testimonials were handed in on behalf of the man, but the judge noted that it was unclear if those who had written them were aware that he has since said he accepts the verdicts of the jury.

The court had also since been made aware that one of the testimonials handed up was written by a man who was a convicted sex offender, she said. The judge said the court would disregard this testimonial, but she expressed concern that the accused had known this person was a sex offender when he invited him to write a testimonial on his behalf.

She handed down a headline sentence of five years but suspended one year of that sentence “in recognition of the useful crime-free life” he has led since the offending. She suspended a further three months as “a bare acknowledgment that he accepts the verdict of the jury and will not appeal”.

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She backdated the sentence to when the man first went into custody last July.

The investigating officer previously told Maddie Grant BL, prosecuting, that the accused man was four years older than his sister, the victim. He said the abuse took place within the family home, beginning at the time of her first communion.

The abuse escalated from touching to masturbation and progressed to rape. The first rape occurred when the victim was nine years old and her brother was 14 years old. She said it then took place on a regular basis over the next three years, ending in 1982.

The court heard there was violence used by the accused during the offences. The woman described how her brother would hit her, put her arms behind her back, try to break her fingers and hit her head off the wall. She said she was too afraid to tell anyone.

The injured party made a complaint to gardai in 2015 and the accused was arrested later that year. The man, who has no previous convictions, denied the allegations when interviewed by gardaí.

The complainant told the court she could now accept the memories she had “tightly locked away in a little black box.” She said it had taken immense power and strength to open that box and reveal the memories.

She described a normal family life until the day of her communion when her brother touched her for the first time. She said her brother used his authority as her elder to scare her into believing she had no one else to turn to and used his anger, manipulation and “malicious nature” to keep her at his mercy.

The woman said she endured sexual, physical and emotional abuse and he used violence to keep her quiet.

She said it was not until her adolescent years she realized the extreme nature of what was happening and became fearful of what might happen to her if she became pregnant.

She said her brother’s refusal to accept what he had done has caused immense heartache and turmoil.

The woman then spoke directly to her brother: “You no longer have power over me, can no longer hurt me.”

“It’s your turn to carry the shame of this crime,” she told her brother.

The woman thanked her husband, those who had supported her, victim support, the prosecution team and gardai.

Ms Grant told the court it was the Director of Public Prosecution's view that this case fell within the more serious category of cases, but that the court would have to make allowance for the fact that the accused man was aged between 14 and 16 at the time of the offending.

Mr Heneghan outlined his client's extensive work history from an early age and his personal circumstances subsequent to the offending. He described the man as a “doting father” who put all his effort and attention into rearing his children following the breakdown of his marriage.

Mr Heneghan handed in a booklet of testimonials from family and friends of the accused man.

In her letter the man’s daughter described him as a honest, giving, caring and loving man who showed empathy for anyone less fortunate than himself. She described how he had cared for his children, other family members and friends.

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