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Court rules Patrick O'Brien's sentence for raping his daughter was too lenient

Patrick O’Brien had been given a 12-year sentence with 9 years suspended for the serial rape of his daughter Fiona Doyle.

Fiona Doyle
Fiona Doyle
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE COURT OF Appeal has ruled that a man’s sentence for raping his daughter repeatedly was too lenient.

Patrick O’Brien had been given a 12 year sentence with 9 years suspended for the serial rape of his daughter Fiona Doyle over the period of a decade, meaning that he would have effectively served a three year jail sentence.

A new sentence is to be handed down on 26 January following today’s decision by the court, which was set up after a referendum in October 2013.

Speaking after the ruling at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin, Doyle told reporters she would “never get over” what she suffered at the hands of her father, but welcomed today’s ruling.

I was just delighted. It was all so unbalanced – the life I’ve had, and will continue to have, compared to the sentence he got.
So it probably will balance it out on a certain level. Not that a victim will ever get over what was done to them, but it helps.

doyle Source: Dan Mac Guill/TheJournal.ie

Doyle, accompanied throughout by her husband Joe and other family members, said it was “stomach-churning” to see her father in court today.

She revealed that she had made an attempt to meet and confront him in prison last year, but that he had refused.

O’Brien walked free from court in January 2012, despite pleading guilty to 16 counts of rape and sexual assault, pending an appeal against the severity of his sentence.

He was initially granted bail, but this was rescinded three days later following a public outcry.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the sentence handed down to 74-year-old O’Brien, arguing that it was unduly lenient.

Tense exchanges in court

In court today, counsel for the DPP Brendan Grehan said that O’Brien’s age and illness were factors to consider in the sentence, but cited the case of a 96-year-old former Nazi guard who was put on trial for his role in concentration camps in World War II.

Grehan argued that although O’Brien suffers from several ailments, he is not terminally ill and can be given sufficient medical care in prison.

Defending O’Brien, Mary Rose Gearty said the sentence had been imposed by Justice Paul Carney, whom she described as the most experience judge in relation to sexual offences, over the past 20 years.

The 12 year sentence reflects the horrendous nature of the offence, but the suspended portion reflects the circumstances of the offender.

She pointed out that her client had not offended in the last 30 years, but was challenged on a number of issues by Appeals Court president Seán Ryan, during sometimes tense exchanges.

Patrick O Brien Court Cases Patrick O'Brien Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Ryan asked: “Would this medical evidence pass muster in any tribunal?”, to which Gearty replied: “Excuse me – of course it would.”

He then challenged Gearty, asking:

What’s the sense in sentencing him to 12 years, if three quarters of it is suspended?Can you think of another such case where three quarters of a sentence was suspended?

The Appeals Court president articulated the crux of the hearing, saying O’Brien would have health issues whether outside or in prison, and that those issues could be looked after just as well in prison.

Nothing about his medical condition would make prison ‘double plus extra intolerable.’

In the end, the Court of Appeals sided with Grehan:

The court is satisfied that the sentence was unduly lenient, and accedes to the DPP’s request.

Ryan said the reasons for their decision would be published in a ruling on 19 January, and the court would impose a new sentence on 26 January.

In her book published last year, Fiona Doyle wrote that Judge Paul Carney had told the court at the time of sentencing that he had tried to strike a balance – between imposing a long sentence and suspending part of it and how that would appear to the public, and imposing a full heavy sentence and being branded as a judge who ‘substituted one injustice for another’.

Reporting from court by Dan MacGuill 

Fiona Doyle: I watched my father walk free from court after confessing to raping me > 

Column: Fiona Doyle was caught in the crossfire of a war over sentencing > 

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