THE RAPE CRISIS Network Ireland has called for the end of granting bail after a conviction for rape, following the controversial sentencing of a convicted serious sexual offender this earlier week.
On Monday, 72-year-old Patrick O’Brien pleaded guilty to charges of rape and indecent assault of his daughter over the course of ten years. Justice Paul Carney sentenced the man to 12 years in prison but suspended the final nine years and released O’Brien on bail pending an appeal.
It is the latest in a series of high profile cases which have seen seemingly disproportionately lenient sentences handed down to people found guilty of offences involving sexual assault.
Fiona Neary, RCBNI Executive Director, said that sentencing is the final stage of “a long and arduous journey” for a survivor of rape and sexual crimes. As most victims choose not to make any report, it is estimated that only 2- 5 per cent of all rape cases will reach the point of sentencing, she pointed out.
“Sentencing for this small number of survivors is a vindication of not only their own rights and dignity but a resounding signal to fellow survivors that the State takes the violence they have experienced seriously. When a sentence fails to satisfy the dignity of the individual survivor, it fails other survivors who will never have their day in court,” said Neary.
“This latest sentencing decision, where Patrick O’Brien was released on continued bail having been given a 12 year custodial sentence, comes on the back of other controversial sentences over the past few months.”
Neary said consistency in sentencing is an issue of continuing concern: “While the average length of a sentence for rape is 9 years and 3 months (RAJI) there is variety in the final sentences for each individual case beyond the individual characteristics of cases. RCNI continue to strongly advocate for sentencing guidelines for judges to support consistency.”
The RCNI are also advocating a number of reforms to bail practices. “As recommended by Rape and Justice in Ireland 2009, bail in rape cases should always be subject to strict conditions especially considering RAJI found 77 per cent of defendants (for all rape cases between 2000 & 2005) are granted bail at some stage in the criminal justice process,” Neary said.
“However, bail should not be granted to a defendant who has been convicted of rape as it is anticipated that a custodial sentence will
follow. It is our firm belief, and a conclusion of the RAJI researchers, that bail after conviction for a serious crime cannot serve justice. Additionally, in the past it has permitted convicted rapists to abscond to avoid custody,” she concluded.