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File picture of Fiona Doyle Photocall Ireland
Speaking out

Abuse survivor Fiona Doyle calls for minimum sentences for rape

The Wicklow woman, who suffered a decade of abuse at the hands of her father, is backing the findings of a report on sentencing.

FIONA DOYLE – THE Wicklow woman whose case was thrust into the national spotlight last year after a controversial judicial decision  - is backing calls to bring in minimum sentencing for rape.

Her father Patrick O’Brien, who subjected Fiona to a ten year ordeal of abuse from the early seventies, was initially let out on bail after being found guilty on charges of rape and indecent assault. Days later that decision was reversed, and the 72-year-old was jailed on a 12-year sentence.

Waiving her right to anonymity, Fiona spoke out at the time about the abuse she had suffered, calling the initial decision ‘utterly heartbreaking’.

Today, she’s backed a report stating that judges be allowed recommend a specific minimum term an offender should serve – which would bring Ireland into line with other jurisdictions.

The report, published yesterday by the Law Reform Commission, says a dedicated body should be set up to address problems caused by inconsistencies within the system. Despite noting the value of judicial discretion, the Commission said there were also deficiencies in the sentencing process.

The issue made the headlines last week when a man who raped his wife’s 14-year-old sister was given a suspended jail sentence, after the judge ruled that sending him to prison would impose extreme hardship on his family.

Asked about the case on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Fiona Doyle said the decision must have been ‘devastating’  for the victim:

My heart goes out to that girl where again it happens – a rapist has walked free.  She’s been on my mind the last few days.

On the subject of the report, she said that sentencing guidelines were urgently needed:

We’ve got to bring in manatory sentencing. Someone’s got to stand up and make this happen.

Fiona said it was ‘incredible’ that such decisions were still being made in Irish courts.

Read: Fiona Doyle meets Taoiseach to discuss court experiences >

Report: Judges should be able to impose minimum sentence for murder >

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