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Central Criminal Court.
Central Criminal Court

Louth teenager gets three year detention for repeated abuse of his niece and cousin

He was 14 at the time of the offending, while the girls were aged between nine and 10.

A TEENAGE BOY who repeatedly sexually abused his niece and cousin has been handed a three-year period of detention.

The Louth teenager (17) pleaded guilty to four counts of anal rape, one count of rape, two counts of sexual exploitation and one count of sexual assault of the two girls at his home address on dates between November 2019 and March 2020.

He was 14 at the time of the offending, while the girls were aged between nine and 10.

At the Central Criminal Court today, Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring said this was a “breach of trust” of his young relatives and their families.

She noted the offending had taken place in the boy’s home, a place considered a “safe space by the children and their parents”.

At an earlier sentencing hearing, Ms Justice Ring said she was concerned that there was no risk assessment carried out in terms of how likely the boy is to offend in the future.

“I’m concerned that an otherwise blameless child, as he was then, gets involved in what is the most serious of crimes – short of murder – the most serious offending that comes before the courts in this country,” Ms Justice Ring said.

Ms Justice Ring said the boy had “taken advantage” of the girls and caused “serious damage” to them.

Setting a headline sentence of four and half years’ detention, Ms Justice Ring indicated she would impose a sentence of nine years on an adult for this offending.

Ms Justice Ring noted the mitigating factors include the boy’s guilty plea, his prior good character, expressions of remorse and his engagement with relevant services.

She handed the boy three years detention and ordered him to come under the supervision of the Probation Services for 18 months post-release.

Ms Justice Ring said the court had to be “cautious” about the boy’s risk of future re-offending, due to the absence of a risk assessment.

It is expected that the boy will be allowed to remain in Oberstown until he has completed his exams, before being moved into an adult prison.

Vincent Heneghan SC, defending, told the court that Tusla have stated they have no concerns about child protection issues in relation to the boy’s domestic situation.

The court previously heard that the two girls spent a lot of time in their relatives’ house, where the boy lived.

Under the guise of letting the girls play his X-Box in his bedroom, the boy made them take turns lying face down on the bed and anally raped them in front of each other.

He also vaginally raped one of the girls, which made her bleed and caused her great upset, the court heard. He also sexually assaulted her.

The boy sent the other girl photographs of his erect penis and made her watch adult pornography. A local detective told Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, that he made the child take screenshots of the pornography and send them to him as proof that she had viewed it.

The abuse came to light in April 2020 when that girl’s sisters saw messages on her phone asking the boy to stop sending her photographs of his penis.

When confronted by his older sister – one of the child’s mothers – about the abuse, the boy initially denied it before eventually saying he didn’t know why he did it. When interviewed by gardaí in November 2021, he said nothing of evidential value.

He entered guilty pleas shortly before he was due to stand trial earlier this year. He has no previous convictions.

Mr Heneghan said his client was successful in school and excelled at sports. He came from a stable, close family background and his parents, who were present in court, are supportive of him.

A Probation Services report found the boy has not come to grips with what motivated him to abuse his relatives. Mr Heneghan said the boy was exposed to pornography around the age of 12 or 13, which could be a factor in his offending.

The boy has career plans and is anxious to complete his Leaving Cert, the court heard.

When interviewed by specialist gardaí, the girls both outlined the extent of the abuse inflicted on them. They did not provide victim impact statements to the court and neither of them has received counselling, although their parents will get it for them if they need it, the court heard.

The parents of one girl said she has never spoken of it since and they did not wish to retraumatise her, while the other was aware of court proceedings but did not wish to attend, the detective said.

The abuse caused a breakdown of what was a previously close family, Mr Heneghan told the court.

Ms Justice Ring ordered the boy to have no contact with the victims in any form while in custody or under the supervision of the Probation Services.

She said she would like to impose restrictions on the boy’s use of social media, computers and the internet, but that it was not practical.