Brave Fionn Daly waived his anonymity to allow his mother, Suzanna Hassett (66) to be named.
Fionn Daly waived his anonymity at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to allow his mother, Suzanna Hassett (66) to be named.
Hassett of Westbourne Grove, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of indecent assault on dates between 1984 and 1987, when her son was aged up to three years old.
She further pleaded to four counts of sexual assault on dates between 1992 and 1995 when her son was aged seven and 11 years old. Hassett has no previous convictions.
In his victim impact statement, Mr Daly said he is still trying to understand and come to terms with the “extreme abuse” he was subjected to.
“One of the hardest things to come to terms with is how young I was when it started. I was still in nappies when it started,” he said.
Mr Daly told the court his childhood was a “long cry for help that no one answered”.
Imposing sentence during a late evening sitting yesterday, Judge Martin Nolan said there had been a “huge betrayal of trust” by Hassett of her son, who was “entitled to unconditional love and protection from his mother”, but did not get this.
“It is hard to imagine a greater betrayal,” Judge Nolan said.
He imposed a total sentence of eight years with the final 18 months suspended on strict conditions, including that Hassett come under the supervision of the Probation Service for 12 months post-release
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that he made a complaint to gardai in 2017 in relation to incidents which occurred between 1992 and 1995.
After Mr Daly went to gardai, Hassett entered counselling during which she admitted her offending during the 1980s
The investigating garda told Monika Leech BL, prosecuting, that the victim recalled lying in bed beside his mother. She then took his hand and used it to masturbate herself.
Mr Daly recalled similar incidents took place on days when he was not in school and his father was at work. It is estimated that these incidents took place two or three times a week over 18 months.
The investigating garda said the Hassett's sister had made a complaint to gardai in 2000 alleging that Hassett had masturbated the victim when he was a baby. However Hassett denied the allegations when gardai spoke to her and no prosecution took place.
After Mr Daly made a complaint to gardai, he told his family. Hassett initially denied any wrongdoing. Her husband continued to ask her about it and she subsequently admitted to the sexual assaults of the victim when he was a child.
The accused then was asked to leave the family home, which she did. Her husband ended their relationship and the couple are divorcing.
Hassett agreed to attend counselling, during which she made further admissions which were disclosed to gardai. She also made admissions when speaking to a Tusla social worker.
When interviewed by gardai for a second time in March 2019, Hassett admitted to fondling her son's penis in an attempt to comfort him when he was a baby. She also acknowledged that she masturbated him and used his arm to masturbate herself. Hassett said this occurred a number of times a week until her son was no longer in nappies.
The investigating garda agreed with defence counsel that his client had an “unblemished character” before these events came to light. His client attended voluntarily an interview with gardai in December 2018 and was very distressed at this time.
The garda witness also agreed that Hassett had been co-operative and admitted to the incidents during the 1980s, which were not part of the initial investigation, while speaking to gardai.
The garda accepted that Hassett had entered an early guilty plea to the counts relating to events in the 1980s. A trial date was initially taken for the counts relating to the 1990s, but the accused entered a plea shortly before the trial was due to start.
Hassett had attended counselling on and off since the 1980s to help her address her issues.
The accused's relationship with her three sons has also broken down and she is living an isolated existence.
Defence counsel said his client wished to publicly apologise to her son. A letter of apology was read to the court, in which she said “as a mother, I should have looked after you, not harmed you”.
His client was sexually abused herself by a family member when she was 11 and was molested on other occasions as a teenager. She was also sexualised at a young age.
Hassett is a mother of three sons and despite her significant failures, her children had achieved academically.
A number of reports and testimonials were handed into the court on Hassett's behalf. One report stated that she is considered at low risk of re-offending and does not meet the criteria for paedophilia and there is also no evidence of an erotic attraction to children.
Judge Martin Nolan said Hassett had “used her son” during these periods for “her own gratification for reasons know only to herself”, He noted the mitigating factors including the guilty pleas and co-operation with gardai.
He noted that she had taken steps to deal with her underlying issues and is unlikely to offend in the future. He said that Hassett is remorseful for her actions.
Judge Nolan said Hassett must be punished for the “wrongdoing and harm done to her son”.
He imposed a six year sentence in relation to the indecent assault count and a two-year sentence in relation to the sexual assault count, taking all other charges into consideration. Both sentences are to run consecutively.
Judge Nolan suspended the final 18 months of the sentence on strict conditions, including that Hassett remain under the supervision of the Probation Services for 12 months post-release.
In court, Mr Daly said he did not have a normal childhood and has been dealing with self-hatred and thoughts of self-defence since a young age.
He said the mental pain he suffers is similar to deep physical pain. If he sees someone on the street who looks like her, he feels like he has been kicked in the stomach. The man said he is unable to escape the pain, even while sleeping.
“The experience of being here today is going to be like a car crash for me,” he said, adding that it would take him a long time to recover.
Mr Daly said the legal process had sent him back to “square one” of the recovery process. He said that he soiled himself as a child as a method of self-defence.
“Anytime I was clean, the abuse started again”.
Mr Daly said he stopped soiling himself at the age of 11, when he realised “no one was coming to help”.
However, he still felt disgust and low self worth, which meant he did not take care of his hygiene for many years, which had an effect on his social life.
“No one wanted to spend time with me,” he said. “I did not want to be touched”.
Mr Daly said he hates handshakes and hugs as he feels he does not deserve human warmth or compassion. The victim told the court that he had regular thoughts of self-harm and had used alcohol to relieve his pain.
Mr Daly said he found it difficult to tell others about the abuse he suffered. While people are encouraged to come forward and speak about historic abuse, Mr Daly said people were unwilling to hear about abuse committed by a mother.
Mr Daly said he first tried to speak about the abuse with mental health professionals in 2012 and 2014, but he felt they did not hear him, which was itself a traumatising experience.
The man said some friends “panicked” when he told them about the abuse and has not spoken to some for a number of years.
The victim said he no longer speaks with his father and parts of his extended family. Mr Daly did not attend a family funeral as his mother would be there and the family “did not want to know about the abuse”.
“I'm the one punished and effectively exiled for being abused. All these people who should have helped me did nothing,” he said.
Mr Daly said he is afraid that his mother will “play the victim” and “manipulate people” against him. He said he was afraid she would become victim, not the abuser and “all this would be for nothing”.
Mr Daly said if action had been taken when his aunt spoke to gardai, his recovery could have started sooner. He said he was not here for himself, but for the child who had been abused.
“I know what I would do if this happened to a child I know. I'm here for that child, abused by her.”
He said he was here for “that baby who no one helped”.
Defence counsel said his client had initially offered to go forward from the District Court on signed pleas on the counts relating to the 1980s, but that was not accepted by the prosecution.
His client had ongoing health issues and had struggled psychologically and physically following the birth of her children. At that time, Hassett did not recognise her actions as sexual abuse, but she now accepts the gravity of her behaviour.
His client has a long work history and has made contributions to her community through voluntary work. She has attended counselling and had made efforts over the last 25 years to deal with her issues.
This was a “significant and grave breach of trust” and she had a “distorted view of sexuality”, defence counsel noted.
Hassett would be listed on the sex offenders register. She is a “broken woman” who has lost her children and family and is now living an isolated existence. Defence counsel asked the court for leniency as possible.