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'Which one of us was the free rape?': Rape survivor criticises concurrent sentencing

Leona O’Callaghan waived her right to anonymity so her rapist could be publicly named.

Trigger warning: This article discusses rape, sexual assault and suicide 

A RAPE SURVIVOR has criticised concurrent prison sentences and asked the Justice Minister to address the issue.

Patrick O’Dea (51), also known as ‘Whacker’, of Pike Avenue, Limerick, was today sentenced to 17 years in jail for grooming and raping Leona O’Callaghan as a child. 

Leona waived her right to anonymity so O’Dea could be publicly named.

He pleaded guilty on the second day of his trial at the Central Criminal Court to charges of sexual assault and rape on dates in 1994 and 1995.

O’Dea is already serving 15 years in prison for raping a different girl, and today’s sentence will run concurrently. 

O’Dea was 28 years old when he groomed a then 12-year-old Leona before eventually raping her in a graveyard. He continued a sexual relationship with her after manipulating her and isolating her from her friends.

Speaking to RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live tonight, Leona said when a person is convicted of raping two different people but the sentences run concurrently it “feels as though one of those rapes is a free one”.

She asked Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, who was present in the studio, ‘Which one of us was the free rape?’

Flanagan said he was not in a position to comment on individual cases but commended Leona on her bravery in coming forward.

‘It tore me to pieces’

Leona told the minister how difficult the last four years have been as she awaited the outcome of the trial.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy imposed a sentence of 18-and-a-half years on O’Dea. She suspended the last 18 months in recognition of his the plea of guilty and his willingness to take part in a psychological assessment.

Leona said she is “satisfied” with the sentence but “found it hard to see the whole thing through”.

She said predators “thrive” and “depend on” anonymity, adding: “I wanted him held to account.”

In a powerful victim impact statement, Leona earlier told the court how the traumatic series of events impacted her relationships with her loved ones, and led to three suicide attempts.

Criticising lengthy delays and how rape cases are handled, Leona told Flanagan:

The current process is not working, it’s not okay. I barely made it through. I sit here and look you in the eye and I tell you it tore me to pieces.

Flanagan said her case was “harrowing” and “a story that many women have told over recent times”, adding: “I’m determined to do something about it.”

The minister said a review into how rape trials are handled and the supports received by complainants, currently being overseen by NUI Galway Law lecturer Tom O’Malley, is expected to be completed by the end of the year or very early next year.

On Saturday, Flanagan said he intends to bring a proposal to Cabinet by the end of the month for a second major national study on sexual violence in Ireland.

It’s been 16 years since the Savi – Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland – report, was published. Earlier this year, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar committed to conducting another report.

The minister said he expects the survey to begin next year, stating that it should be completed within 18 months.

Need help? Support is available:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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