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Man (55) who sexually assaulted four of his nieces jailed for three years

The man abused his four nieces between 1991 and 2003.

Image: Shutterstock

A DUBLIN MAN who sexually assaulted four of his nieces during visits to his home has been jailed for three years.

The man (55), who cannot be named for legal reasons, engaged in “persistent, nasty and insidious” offending over a 12-year period against his four nieces, three of whom were children when the abuse began.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that he abused one victim while she was babysitting his children and abused another while she was in a bed in the same room as his sleeping daughter.

The man, with an address in south Dublin, pleaded guilty to a total of 22 counts of sexual assault committed against his four nieces on dates between 1 December 1991 and 18 December 2003. He has no previous convictions.

Passing sentence yesterday, Judge Pauline Codd said all of the offences were committed within the environs of the man’s family home and the victims were aged between nine and 19 years old when he began abusing them.

Judge Codd said the offending conduct was “opportunistic, but persistent”. She said the offending lasted for a “considerable duration” and involved a “considerable breach of trust”.

She said the court takes into account the emotional and psychological distress that the victims have carried for many years. She said each of them had shown “dignity and courage” by coming to court and giving accounts of the impact this has had on them.

The judge said while the accused’s offending is “morally deplorable”, the court must acknowledge it does not feature the most egregious aspects as defined by law at that time, such as touching of the vaginal area, exposure of the penis, ejaculation or violence.

She said that at the time of the offending, the maximum sentence for sexual assault was five years imprisonment.

Judge Codd said the mitigating factors in the case include the accused man’s guilty plea, his previous good character, his personal circumstances, his solid work history and the testimonials and character references submitted on his behalf.

She noted that despite his guilty pleas, the accused seems to lack insight and seeks to minimise his actions, meaning deterrence and rehabilitation must feature in this sentence.

Judge Codd sentenced the man to six months imprisonment for his offences against the first victim and four months imprisonment for his offence against the second victim, ordering both sentences to run concurrent to each other.

She also sentenced him to 12 months imprisonment for his offences against the third victim and two-and-a-half years imprisonment for his offences against the fourth victim, ordering both to run consecutive to each other and the previous sentences.

Judge Codd then suspended the final year of the sentences for a total operating sentence of four years imprisonment with the final one year suspended. She ordered the suspension on strict conditions, including that the man not having any contact with the victims or have unsupervised access to children.

In her victim impact statement, which she read out in court during a previous sentencing hearing, the first victim said when the abuse happened she did not know what to do. She said she was frightened, disgusted, confused, and thought he had done this to humiliate her.

She said it was a nightmare for her and that he was predatory and manipulative. She said she felt being targeted by him created a chain of events of negativity in her life.

The victim said she felt the whole process of reporting has been so difficult. She said that while a trial is hanging over your head, you feel your life is on hold.

She said silence is the friend of the people who do this and she no longer wants her voice silenced.

The second victim said in her statement that she stood before the court to speak her truth which has caused her “unbearable pain”.

She said the accused was an abuser who sought to prey on a young and naïve child. She said he was such a “textbook groomer” he had convinced her she was the only one he had done this with and she was “the disgusting one”.

The victim said she left Ireland for educational opportunities, but deep down she knew it was a way to get away from this “predator”. She said that although he was no longer physically in her life, his damage was done.

She said as an adult she now knows what he did was his fault, not hers. She said for the rest of her life she will continue to have to deal with this pain.

The third victim said in her statement that she repressed the memories of being sexually abused until her younger sister disclosed her abuse around Christmas in 2016.

She said she started having flashbacks, her mind was instantly overcome and her world turned upside down. She said she was overcome by emotion, crying for days and could not process the enormity of what she had been through.

The victim said what she struggled most with is guilt and she has “huge guilt” about her younger sister. She said she knows she should never have been burdened with this, that it was the defendant who did these “despicable crimes”.

She said she had waited five long years to be able to share her truth in the courtroom. She said they were all prepared to be cross-examined, but at the very last moment the accused pleaded guilty and it is very upsetting knowing he might get rewarded for this.

The victim said she hopes they will finally get justice and maybe some day get closure.

The youngest of the four victims said in her statement that the abuse happened for a long time and it developed. She said she was groomed and never got to have her first kiss, that it was taken from her.

She said when she was a child, Christmas was her favourite time of year. She said Christmas was destroyed for her because of the abuse.

The victim said she reported the abuse in 2016 and thought she would feel free. She said it was extremely painful and not at all what she expected it to be.

She said this process should not have been as hard as it was. She said every instance for the last five years could have been avoided with the truth from the beginning.

Additional evidence

At an earlier sentencing hearing, a local garda told Sinéad McMullan BL, prosecuting, that the accused man was the uncle by marriage of the four victims, the younger three of whom are sisters. He said all offences occurred in the man’s home, which had been the home of their grandparents prior to their deaths.

The garda said the first victim, who was the cousin of the other victims, was aged around 19 when she was first sexually assaulted by her uncle. She had been babysitting in the house when the accused man came home from a pub and blocked her path when she stood up to go to bed.

The man started hugging her, kissing her on the face, mouth and neck, and fondled her breasts. She stood frozen, before later pushing him off her.

The victim told her parents at the time what had happened, but they said her uncle must have been “messing”. After this she tried not to babysit in the house or be alone with the accused as much as possible.

When she did get caught alone with him, he would kiss her and grope her breasts. She also remembered being in bed in the house when he would come in and put his hands on her under the covers.

The garda said the second victim was aged around 13 or 14 at the time of the abuse. She had fond memories of the house prior to the offence, that it was a “home away from home” and like a “refuge” for her.

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The victim was in the hall of the house when the accused man came up to her and said to let him give her a kiss. She was very scared and pushed him away, trying to get his face away from hers.

The accused man said to let him “give you a hickey instead” and put his mouth on her neck. She froze and the details were blurry after that.

The garda said the third victim was the goddaughter of her aunt, the accused’s wife, and had been the flower girl at her wedding. He said she began staying in the house more than usual and babysitting their children prior to the offences.

The victim recalled her uncle coming into the bedroom she would have shared with his daughter. She would lie frozen and pretending to be asleep when he would sit on the bed and kiss her on the lips and neck.

Occasionally when she went up towards the bedroom, he would pull her towards him and try to kiss her. She blocked out the offending, but remembered it after her younger sister disclosed being abused.

The garda said the youngest of the four victims was aged between nine and 16 years old at the time of the abuse. During the period she would go to the house to sleep over.

During the first instance of abuse, the accused came up to her and asked for a kiss. After she kissed him on the cheek, he said “no a proper kiss” and kissed her on the lips, putting his tongue in her mouth and rubbing his hands on her body.

This abuse would happen “often” and always featured kissing and rubbing. She had no recollection of him ever rubbing anywhere below her waist and could not recall if he would put his hands inside her top.

The victim did not recall there being any threats. When she was a little older, the accused would also kiss and rub her when he caught her alone in the kitchen.

She disclosed the abuse to her family at Christmas in 2016. The family soon thereafter went to a garda station and made formal complaints.

The accused man was arrested and interviewed in November 2017. He claimed that in his view “something like an affair” had taken place with the first victim, but denied any wrongdoing in relation to the other three victims.

He ultimately pleaded guilty to all of the offences on the morning of his trial on 8 June 2021.

The garda agreed with Dominic McGinn SC, defending, that his client has been on bail since being charged in 2018 and that there has been no issues with his bail.

McGinn said the victim impact evidence given by the four ladies was “very powerful indeed” and that clearly the impact has been “devastating”. He said this clearly aggravates the seriousness of the offences, as does the fact that three of the victims were children at the time.

Counsel said having said that, the spectrum of sexual acts which come under the offence of sexual assault is broad. He said although these offences were “persistent, nasty and insidious”, there was no element of genital touching, penetration, exposure or ejaculation.

He said the court has to recognise there are factors in this case that reduce the sentencing by mitigating it. He said the most powerful one is his client’s guilty plea, but far more important is his client’s remorse for what he did.

Judge Codd interrupted, noting that in a report from the Probation Service, it was stated that the accused said he denied the offending and does not accept responsibility.

McGinn said he had a long discussion with his client about that, saying his client has struggled with vocalising his acceptance with what he did, which he thinks is perhaps common with a lot of “sexual predators”.

Counsel said his client did not struggle to admit it to the court and his client has not resiled from the guilty plea. He said his client does not have any previous convictions and is entitled to have it recognised as a factor his being somebody who will be incarcerated for the first time.

About the author:

Brion Hoban

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