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'Wrong message' Abuse survivors call for review of suspended sentence for carer Rita Ryan who abused young girl

Rita Ryan (69), who worked in the orphanage as a carer, walked free from Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after it heard she claimed she believed she was in a romantic relationship with the child at the time.

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Rita Ryan is to pay €30,000 compensation to her victim, who was 11 years old at the time of the abuse

Rita Ryan is to pay €30,000 compensation to her victim, who was 11 years old at the time of the abuse

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Rita Ryan is to pay €30,000 compensation to her victim, who was 11 years old at the time of the abuse

An abuse survivors' group has called on the DPP to appeal a fully suspended sentence handed down to a Dublin granny who sexually abused an 11-year-old girl in the orphanage almost 50 years ago.

Rita Ryan (69), who worked in the orphanage as a carer, walked free from Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after it heard she claimed she believed she was in a romantic relationship with the child at the time.

Ryan, of Meadowview Grove, Hillcrest, Lucan, pleaded guilty to two charges of indecent assault of the girl at the orphanage in Dublin on dates between December 1971 until October 1974.

The charges were put forward by the State as sample charges but the prosecution estimated she had abused the child more than 100 times.

Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Ryan, who brought €15,000 to court to compensate her victim, to a two-year term which he suspended in full despite concluding: "She (Ryan) knew what she was doing and to engage in such activities with a child is reprehensible."

When the Sunday World called to Ryan's home on Thursday our efforts to speak with her were rebuffed by a male family member.

He told our reporter: "I think you've a cheek to call out to our door. No, we've nothing to say."

Speaking yesterday abuse survivor and founder of Survivors Support Anonymous, Leona O'Callaghan said she feels very strongly that Ryan's sentence is one the Director of Public Prosecutions needs to appeal.

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Abuse survivor Leona O’Callaghan

Abuse survivor Leona O’Callaghan

Patrick O’Dea who abused campaigner Leona O'Callaghan

Patrick O’Dea who abused campaigner Leona O'Callaghan

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Abuse survivor Leona O’Callaghan

"The DPP needs to appeal this sentence because it sends out a hugely wrong message to paedophiles who hide behind this claim they were in a relationship with their victims.

"My own abuser (Patrick O'Dea) made similar claims about the abuse he inflicted on me.

"To have a court hear a child sex abuser give this excuse and then impose a suspended sentence sets a very dangerous precedent.

"There is no such thing as consent between a child and a sex abuser … there is no such thing as a romantic relationship.

"And I honestly believe, where such an excuse is given, it should be seen as an aggravating factor."

Similarly, Leona was extremely critical of perpetrators being allowed to offer financial sums as compensation during the criminal process.

"Where an abuser is a person of means then compensation may be appropriate," she said, "but only in the civil courts after the criminal process has concluded. Money should have no place in the criminal process."

Dublin Circuit Court heard this week that Ryan was in her early twenties and working as a care assistant when she began to abuse the child after calling into her bedroom at night-time and asking her if she knew "what French kissing was?".

The abuse continued and escalated in severity to include mutual masturbation and oral sex.

The now 60-year-old victim, who lives abroad, made a statement to gardaí in 2014. Ryan was questioned in October 2016 and said she did not think her behaviour amounted to sexual abuse.

She accepted a suggestion by the gardaí that it was instead "a romantic relationship" and acknowledged that it was also "an intimate relationship".

Dean Kelly SC, prosecuting, told the court that Ryan's pleas to two charges of indecent assault were acceptable to the State on the basis that they represent sample charges. He said the victim told gardaí that Ryan would abuse her "frequently" and "whenever the opportunity arose".

Mr Kelly said the maximum penalty available to the court, due to the law existing at the time, is two years. He confirmed that had the abuse occurred today, Ryan would be facing a maximum sentence of 14 years, due to a change in law.

On Tuesday, Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Ryan to a two-year term which he suspended in full having heard the evidence on Monday and adjourning the case overnight to consider it.

He noted that Ryan had €15,000 in court to offer the victim as a token of remorse and said she must have a further €15,000 for the victim within a year.

He estimated that Ryan had abused the child more than a hundred times and said that Ryan was an adult at the time in a position of trust.

"I have come to the conclusion that she knew what she was doing and to engage in such activities with a child is reprehensible," Judge Nolan said. He also made reference to the "disparity of age" between them.

Judge Nolan noted that a victim impact statement, which was not read out in court, outlined that the woman has been greatly traumatised by the abuse and it has impacted her life. He described the woman as "a great lady".

Report

He accepted that a psychologist report gave insight into Ryan's own background and sexual experience and accepted that she is "highly unlikely to re-offend to any degree in the future."

Judge Nolan took into account Ryan's admissions, absence of a criminal record, the fact she has led a productive life, is invaluable to her extended family and has contributed to her local community.

Judge Nolan said what "troubled the court" was "the prolonged nature of the behaviour" and described it as a "particularly important factor" in determining whether Ryan would go to jail or not. He said he had decided the issue of custody separate to the €15,000 offered as a token of Ryan's remorse.

"Let nobody say or believe she is buying her way out of prison. That is not the situation. I decide the issue of prison or not independent of any money proffered," Seamus Clarke SC, defending, said his client has a number of children and is now a grandmother.

Detective Garda Brian Davoren acknowledged that the victim and Ryan stayed in touch over the years and the victim visited Ryan on a number of occasions, including in 2010.

Mr Clarke told the court that his client "regrets deeply what she has done".

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