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fighting words Rape survivor Debbie Cole calls for minimum sentences for sex crimes

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Debbie Cole

Debbie Cole

Debbie Cole

Rape survivor Debbie Cole has called for minimum sentences for sex crimes. 

Debbie, who was raped by a serial sex attacker has previously backed a Bill calling for longer prison sentences for repeat sex offenders.

Speaking after new figures revealed that more than 400 people are currently in prison for sexual offences, accord Debbie said that “it is a lottery” for sex offenders, “depending on which judge they get”.

“It is ridiculous,” she said. “Every day, there are multiple cases in the news of sex offenders – whether it is people watching child porn or actual physical sex abuses that when they go to court it is a lottery depending on which judge they get.”

At age 19, Debbie Cole was brutally raped by Robert Melia in a block of flats in Dublin in 1989.

Predator Melia, originally from Shangan Gardens, Ballymun, was jailed for six years in 1991 for the rape of Ms Cole in a block of flats in Dublin.

Within a month of his release from prison in 1997, he carried out further sex attacks on three separate women.

After serving this sentence, Melia was subsequently convicted of two further attacks on women in 2012 and 2013.

According to The Irish Prison Service (IPS), a total of 3,109 people are currently serving prison sentences around the country

Some 424 people, more than one-in-eight of Ireland’s inmates, are behind bars for sexual crimes.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell told Newstalk the number is very low when compared to the number of offences committed.

“About 3,000 cases have been reported to the Gardaí over the last couple of years - each year - and of those about 150 people end up with a prison term,” she said.

She said the 424 figure is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Allowing for the fact that some of them will be serving long terms of maybe seven, ten or 15 years and some serving very short terms and given that typically about 150 people go to prison each year for sex offences, that is only the tiniest possible percentage of the number of prosecution that happen,” she said.

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Brave Debbie has previously called on the Government to force serial sex offenders like her attacker to wear GPS trackers on their ankles.

She said that she will never be fully free of the impact of Melia’s gruesome crime, but says that an ankle tag would give her and his other victims some peace of mind.

"My time is until I take my last breath: my attack was 31 years ago; I'm still living with the sentence so surely an extra couple of years of that person having an ankle monitor is not too big a deal if they've no intentions on hurting anybody again.

"It's not like it's on their face, it's not like it's around their neck like a dog collar so everyone in the street can see it - it's on their ankle under a pair of trousers".

She said she believes such a move would make a big difference in terms of re-offending.

"If you take into the account the guy that had attacked me: after he was released from prison for attacking me, he went on to seriously attack three women in a couple of months space while he was on early release for my rape.

"Once he's out of prison, he'll attack again.

"Whereas if he has an ankle monitor on him with a GPS tracker in it, then there's less likelihood of him going to offend because he knows he's going to get caught straight away".

During his trial in 1999, the court was told how Melia forced one woman to the ground after tying them up and sexually assaulted her.

Sadistic Melia even urinated on one of the women and forced her to crawl under a car.

Melia was given a nine year prison sentence for those attacks – all of which were carried out within one month.

But after completing this sentence in 2005, Melia continued to reoffend – assaulting a woman who he repeatedly threatened to kill, after threatening to bite off her ear.

In 2013, he also attacked and threatened to kill another woman, who had to jump out of a hotel window to escape. He was subsequently handed an eight-year sentence for these two sickening crime.

In 2015, Melia pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to charges of false imprisonment, assault causing harm and making threats to kill at the Caulfields Hotel, Dorset Street Lower, Dublin on May 19th, 2013.

Last year, the 51-year-old beast was released from Midlands Prison last year, much to the terror and shock of his victims.

Ms Cole said serial sex offenders most be monitored properly following their release from prison.

"The problem is that there are too many serious sex offenders on the streets with practically no supervision,” she said.

"Although that have supervision orders, it's impossible to monitor any offender 24 hours a day - unless they have a GPS tracking monitor on them.

"You have a supervision order that they might only have to sign on at their local Garda station once every five or once every seven days.

"They can be anywhere in the country for the rest of those days doing anything and nobody knows any different.

"So, for people like me, who are aware that these people are back in the community, living in your neighbourhoods, walking down your streets, drinking in your pubs: we need to know that we're safe.

"People often turn around a say 'Well, what about their human rights? Don't they have human rights?'

"Well I'm sorry - where's my human rights to feel safe and secure in my own home in my own town, walking down my own street.

"I firmly believe if you commit a crime like that, you voluntarily give up your rights to have the same human rights as a person who has never committed a crime.

"And the only people who would have a problem with having a GPS ankle monitor are people that intend to go out and hunt for their next victim anyway".

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