The judge said she must sentence McCabe as a minor at the time of the offending, and detention should be a last resort
Joe McCabe (21) pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to one count of sexual assaulting his friend at his home address in Beaufield Crescent, Maynooth, Co Kildare on a date between March 2 and March 31, 2018. He was 17 years’ old at the time, while she was 16.
The complainant in the case gave consent for McCabe to be named, prosecution counsel told the court.
At a hearing last week, Ms Justice Karen O'Connor remanded McCabe in custody ahead of sentencing. Today, she handed down a sentence of 18 months, which she suspended in full on a number of conditions.
The judge said she must sentence McCabe as a minor at the time of the offending, and detention should be a last resort. She said had he been an adult, she would have set a headline sentence of three years.
The judge noted the victim's life was changed “catastrophically” as a result of the sexual assault, that her education suffered and she continues to suffer in her daily life. “He took advantage of friend when she was upset about a breakdown of a relationship,” the judge said.
She noted: “The impact on her has been significant and ongoing.”
In mitigation, the judge took into account McCabe's guilty plea, which meant the complainant did not have to “endure” a trial. She said in relation to McCabe being a minor: “The emphasis is on rehabilitation and less on retribution and deterrence.”
She suspended the 18-month sentence on a number of conditions.
“He has insight of incarceration, he has insight on leaving this building in a prison vehicle,” the judge said. “If he breaches any of the conditions, I will not hesitate to impose sentence.”
Garda David Kenny told Vincent Heneghan SC, prosecuting, that on the night in question, the girl was upset about a relationship break-up and went to McCabe's house.
The pair were in his bedroom watching a movie when he asked her for a “cuddle”. The girl agreed but told McCabe: “No funny business,” the court heard.
McCabe then started kissing and touching the girl, putting his hands down her underwear and putting his fingers inside her.
She repeatedly told him no, and he stopped a number of times before starting to sexually assault her again, at one point telling her: “You know you want it.”
The girl was “in shock” that this was happening, the court heard. Shortly afterwards, McCabe's mother came upstairs and said it was time to go. McCabe walked the girl home, during which she didn't talk to him.
As soon as she arrived home, he sent her a text over Snapchat saying: “Oh God I'm so sorry.” She was in a confused state and wrote back: “It's fine.”
The girl had nothing else to do with McCabe after that incident. Her mother noticed a change in her daughter and she eventually confided in her mother about what had happened. Gardaí were then notified.
In her victim impact statement, which she read out in court, the young woman, now aged 21, said she hated herself in the wake of the assault and struggled with the fact her friend had “hurt and betrayed me”.
“I felt my body had been corrupted and soiled by someone I trusted,” she said.
She outlined how her education was disrupted and she struggled with depression, anxiety and flashbacks. “My hopes and dreams in terms of my career were reduced,” she said.
She said she feels like she has gone through “years of stress and trauma” while McCabe has carried on living his life as if nothing happened.
John Fitzgerald SC, defending, said his client had just turned 17 at the time of the offence and has aged and matured in the last four and a half years. He suffers from haemophilia, a serious blood disorder, and has long-standing anxiety.
He moved school in the wake of the sexual assault and attempted to take his own life.
Mr Fitzgerald said his client wished to apologise for what happened and the impact it had on the young woman's life. He said that while she perceives he got on with his life as though nothing happened, that was not the case.
Letters were handed into court from his parents, outlining his distress and self-reproach and from his current partner, who said he treats her with “respect, love and gentleness”.