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Man convicted of raping 15-year-old at house party has appeal dismissed

The Court of Appeal had “no hesitation” in dismissing the appeal.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

THE COURT OF Appeal has had “no hesitation” in dismissing the sentence appeal of a teenager who boasted about raping a 15-year-old girl at a house party.

The 20-year-old man, whose details cannot be published to protect the victim’s identity, had pleaded not guilty to rape at a house in Co Wexford on 24 July 2014. There was a two-year delay between the accused being interviewed and charged, which meant he was tried as an adult.

He was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to five years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Mr Justice Paul McDermott on 23 October 2017.

The Central Criminal Court heard that the teenagers had engaged in “banter” on social media before making an arrangement to meet up.

She took a lift with him and friends to a house party, where she was given shots of vodka and felt very unwell.

The accused then offered to bring her upstairs “and help her to lie down”. A short time later, some of the man’s friends banged on the door and ordered him to stop “what he was doing”.

He returned downstairs and “boasted” to friends, “I bagged her”, the court heard.

Both the man and the Director of Public Prosecutions sought to appeal his sentence. His lawyers contended his sentence was too severe while the DPP argued it was too lenient.

The Court of Appeal said yesterday that it had “no hesitation” in dismissing his appeal.

Giving judgment, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said there were significant aggravating factors present, in what was by any standards a very serious case.

The girl was in a very vulnerable and drunken state, something that was obvious to many of those at the house party. There was an element of planning on the defendant’s part from early on in the evening.

The case was contested on the basis the victim had not just consented, but initiated the sexual activity. As such, the mitigation that would have been available to him was “wholly lacking”.

The man’s barrister, Patrick McCarthy SC, said his client was a child at the time and, as such, any penalty imposed on him should “cause as little interference” as possible with his pursuits.

He submitted that it was desirable to allow the education, training or employment of child offenders to proceed without interruption, according to Section 96.2 of the Children’s Act 2001.

McCarthy said the objective behind sentencing children was their successful reintegration into society.

He said his client’s “career development” when he comes out of prison and returns to society would be “seriously undermined”.

He said his client may only be able to go back to college as a 23-year-old which “may diminish his career opportunities into the future”. The man is a musician and was doing “theory exams” in prison, the court heard.

In relation to the DPP’s appeal, Mr Justice Birmingham said a higher sentence might well have been considered.

He said the defendant’s moral culpability was high in light of the element of planning, the victim’s vulnerable condition, his persistence in engaging with her sexually notwithstanding her condition and continuing to do so despite confrontation by others.

On the other hand, the man’s age at the time was a significant factor. The court was being called on to sentence a 19-year-old man pursuing a third-level degree course for an offence committed as a 16-year-old.

He said the task of sentencing was approached by the judge with conspicuous care and attention.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, dismissed both appeals and upheld the sentence.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Pauline Walley SC, welcomed the fact the man withdrew an appeal against his conviction on the morning of his appeal. “It was some comfort to the injured party who is in court,” she added.

Walley said the DPP was “very mindful” that young offenders should be treated differently, but “it doesn’t mean someone should get a blank cheque”. She said the case could become a benchmark for similar offences involving young offenders.

She submitted that the sentencing judge focused on the man’s age “to the exclusion” of “troubling aspects” to the offence.

The injured party was a “young 15-year-old” of “slight frame”, Walley said. She was a virgin at the time and bruises on her arms showed the restraint the accused exercised on her.

Walley said the accused had pushed “this myth” that the injured party was the instigator or was “somehow to be blamed because she wasn’t able to control herself” due to her intoxication. The accused, in garda interviews, described the injured party as a “willing participant”.

It was “clearly false” given the “state” she was in, Walley said. The injured party was “virtually comatose” and “unconscious” according to the accused’s own friends.

Walley said the accused’s own friends “admonished him” for what he had done. One of his friends threatened to kill him.

She said the accused then elected to put the injured party through a trial and “elected to continue to castigate her”.

She said a probation report found him to be at a medium risk of reoffending.

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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