MAGNUS MEYER HUSTVEIT wrote to his former partner and told her that he had, over a year, regularly raped and sexually assaulted her while she was asleep and incapable of giving consent. He had, he told her, been using her “body for (his) gratification”.
Handing down a seven year sentence on Monday, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said that he had to consider that there might have been no prosecution if not for Hustveit’s confession. “In truth, the case comes here today out of his own mouth,” the judge said, before suspending the entire sentence.
Rape is the second-most serious crime on our statutes, after murder. Imagine a judge lending such weight to a confession of murder that it mitigated the entire case to a suspended sentence.
Rape is the second-most serious crime in our country due to – as Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre says – “the dreadful, and far too often, lifelong debilitating effects it can have on the victim’s life”.
Rape is the second-most serious crime in Ireland and yet it seems a man can actually confess to rape here and still serve no time in prison.
Ireland’s statistics on sexual crime are truly shocking
O’Malley-Dunlop says a case such as this will inevitably draw the attention of victims of rape and sexual assault, those who have reported the crimes perpetrated against them and whose cases have not gone to trial due – usually – to lack of evidence. It will also attract attention from victims who have not yet reported the crimes perpetrated against them. The reasons for not reporting are usually because the victim is too afraid and/or too ashamed to do so.
Ireland’s statistics on sexual crime are truly shocking. It is now thirteen years since the publication of the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland Report (SAVI). It remains a deeply distressing work.
Amongst other findings, the report highlights the fact that only one in ten victims of sexual crime in Ireland reports that crime. Of that one in ten, only 7% secures a conviction. So of 100 victims of sexual crime, only 10 report that crime. Barely one victim from that 100 will see their attacker pay for their crimes.
Less than 1% of victims of sexual crime in Ireland get justice. With that in mind, it’s hard not to wonder exactly what message the courts think they send to victims of sexual crime when lenient sentences are handed down.
Last year, the Court of Criminal Appeal sent Dublin millionaire Anthony Lyons back to jail, ruling that the trial judge, Mr Justice Desmond Hogan, had given undue weight to “the totality of mitigating circumstances” when sentencing Lyons to six years, with five and a half years suspended.
It’s worth recalling the details of Lyons’ case. In the early hours of October 3rd, 2010, the then-49 year old aviation broker attacked a 27 year old woman on Griffith Avenue. He rugby-tackled her to the ground and physically and sexually assaulted her, stopping only when a passer-by intervened. Lyons ran and had almost reached his house when he was arrested by Gardaí.
Two years later, Lyons pleaded not guilty but, during his trial, eventually admitted the attack, claiming he was overcome by an “irresistible urge” due to a combination of alcohol, cholesterol medicine and cough syrup. He was convicted and received an effective sentence of six months.
Among the “mitigating circumstances” originally considered was a compensation order of €75,000 to be paid to his victim. It’s a horrible thought, but would a rich man who could afford €150,000 be allowed to claim mitigation for sexually assaulting two women? How about a sexual predator who could afford to blow a million? How many women could such a man attack and then throw a few quid at in “mitigation”?
Judges still don’t believe they need special training for sexual crime cases
Poor Anthony Lyons, though. His barrister told the Court of Criminal Appeal he will have to live with the stigma of being a convicted sex offender. Remembered forevermore as Mr Cholesterol Medicine, the violent pervert who attacked and sexually assaulted a young woman and who then subjected her to a further four year ordeal as he attempted to weasel out of being held responsible for his own depravity.
He was even asked to leave his golf club. Imagine.
Imagine how long it will take before Lyons’ victim feels confident to walk down the street. Imagine how long it will take before she doesn’t think about him, the first thing she thinks about every day. Imagine how long it will be before she can define herself as herself and not as a victim of his perversion.
In the wake of the Lyons case and others, retired High Court Judge Mr Justice Barry White last year told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke “I don’t believe that judges need training in relation to sentencing, in cases of a sexual nature”.
Some men just don’t seem to get the idea of consent
You wouldn’t need to lift too many rocks on social media to find the mansplaining, rape-apologists and the #NotAllMen Brigade. One told me on Twitter the other night that by sharing a bed, a woman grants permanent consent to sex and – because he’s had sex when he was drunk and (he claims) could not give consent – he was therefore a rape victim himself.
Some men just don’t seem to get the idea of consent and it always seems to be the ones who argue #NotAllMen. Those men are not all rapists – to agree with their pathetic hash-tag – but they clearly don’t think rape is a particularly vile crime or a pressing concern.
Rape is an absolute violation and there are never mitigating circumstances. Ever. I think we need to start thinking about mandatory minimum sentences for crimes of sexual violence and I think we need to then take into account circumstances of aggravation rather than mitigation.
I also think it obvious Mr Justice White is wrong and our judges most certainly do need training in relation to sentencing in crimes of a sexual nature.
As for the “Not All Men” brigade, why are you whining about your perceived victimhood rather than morally outraged that any man rapes? Why do you not embrace a duty of leadership to your peers and evangelise for feminism? Why do you not declare loudly that women are men’s equals in every right?
A victim of rape has been forced into a position of further vulnerability
Magnus Meyer Hustveit’s victim has waived her right to anonymity to highlight her case. “This is so much bigger than me,” Niamh Ní Dhomhnail told RTÉ, “and this case sends a clear message to Irish society that rape and sexual violence (are) not being taken seriously enough.”
I think Ms Ní Dhomhnail is incredibly brave but I feel ashamed to live in a country that would force a rape victim into a position of further vulnerability.
Rape is the second-most serious crime on Ireland’s statutes. Ireland needs to get serious about that.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s 24-hour national helpline is 1800 778 888.
Donal O’Keeffe is a writer, artist and columnist for TheJournal.ie. He tweets as @Donal_OKeeffe.