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family's shock Kerry rape victim to meet Justice Minister Helen McEntee over court character testimonials

Woman’s family left hurt and angry by controversy


Conor Quaid

Conor Quaid

Conor Quaid

Justice Minister Helen McEntee is open to meeting with a rape victim to discuss her family’s demand for character testimonials to be outlawed in sex crime sentencing.

The development arose following the controversy over a number of testimonials offered on her rapist's behalf before his Central Criminal Court sentencing last week.

The woman’s family were outraged by the testimonials – with her mother warning it was like “a second slap in the face” for her family.

Conor Quaid (26), of Monaree, Dingle, Co Kerry, was jailed for six-and-a-half years for raping the young woman as she slept in her bedroom.

He had vehemently denied rape at a location in Kerry on June 10, 2018.

However, a Central Criminal Court jury convicted him of the crime after a seven-day trial.

Quaid had travelled to the woman’s home after a night out drinking in a nearby town while aware her family were away on holiday.

He later went into her bedroom and raped her while she was curled up asleep in bed. In later social media messages, the prosecution said he was “accepting of his guilt.”

Quaid, the son of a retired garda, was a trusted family friend.

He was told in the Central Criminal Court he had abused the family’s trust and had shown no remorse.

“You (Quaid) did whatever you liked. I had no choice on that night. You made me feel like I was worthless,” the young woman said in her ­victim-impact statement.

“I know some people held me responsible and that is difficult when I am the victim.”

Ahead of sentencing, eight testimonials were submitted to court for Quaid, including one by John Diony O’Connor who is now the vice-chairman of Dingle GAA. Others were offered by a publican and a retired Garda sergeant.

Mr O’Connor, who was not Dingle GAA vice-chairman at the time he wrote the character reference, insisted it was issued in a personal capacity.

The testimonial submitted to court advised: “I have known the Quaid family for over 20 years and as a consequence I have known Conor since he was a small boy. I am aware of his recent conviction. He was involved with Dingle GAA club as an underage player and always played as a team player and got on extremely well with all the mentors and teammates and always listened to and took advice.”

The father of the victim told the Irish Independent the ­testimonials had caused huge “upset and anger” for his ­family.

“These testimonials should not be allowed. There are a lot of rules around the victim-impact statement and the victim can be questioned on that by the (defence) barristers but these references are written without rules or legislation to them,” he said.

“These statements were designed to get time off his sentence and (could) cause hurt and further victimisation to the victim. Nobody thought of us or the hurt it would cause us.”

The family first learned of the testimonials when they attended the Dublin sentencing hearing and said they were “shocked and appalled.”

“The reason we attended the sentencing was to draw a line under it and it caused extra hurt. This shouldn’t be allowed – it has to be stopped.
Hopefully, we can make changes to the law when we meet Minister McEntee. It is too late for us but we hope going forward it won’t happen to anyone else.

“Such character references will only make it harder for victims to come forward.”

Dingle GAA said the submission did not reflect club views.

However, the woman’s family were so incensed by the testimonials they contacted Kerry GAA to formally complain. The victim’s mother even proposed that the Dingle club now make a contribution to Kerry Rape Crisis Centre – but Kerry’s Eye said they did not get any such commitment.

Kerry GAA secretary Peter Twiss offered his heartfelt thoughts to the young woman and her family.

But he told the family that Mr O’Connor had not brought either the Dingle club or Kerry GAA into disrepute and no disciplinary charge or sanction would result.

“While you and your family may find this view upsetting and disagreeable, please accept it as our genuine and honest view, and we stress, it in no way condones or justifies the awful experience you and your family have been through.”

The director of the Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, Vera O’Leary, offered a special training programme via RTÉ’s Liveline programme to Kerry GAA in awareness and sensitivity in relation to issues surrounding the victims of sexual violence.

“We would be willing to do training with the GAA on victim consciousness, sensitivity and awareness around the issue of sexual violence.”

The family insisted that the GAA should now “do the right thing” and “be seen to do the right thing.”

The family criticised the response to date from Kerry GAA. “We are not happy with the response from the county board,” the victim’s father said.

“The county board needs to stand up. They need to do the right thing. They referred to him as the defendant. He is a convicted rapist.”

The woman’s father also said the Kerry GAA should take up the awareness training offered by Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre.

“These people have no idea what they are doing when they are writing these things,” he said as he warned the full implications of such matters needed to be understood.

A senior Kerry GAA official has said they would carefully consider any offer received about sensitivity training.

“We have always availed of all training in terms of inclusion – every sort of initiative in relation to children with disabilities, other communities, etc. We have always engaged in those training opportunities so I wouldn’t imagine we wouldn’t in this situation.

“All considerations are taken into account. But that full discussion is a matter for the chairman and the secretary.

“It is very sensitive, and my heart goes out to that poor lady and her parents.”

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Irish Independent