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Being named is "a big punishment" for man who sexually assaulted teen

“It’s really important to educate people around sentencing,” said Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop of the Rape Crisis Centre.

Image: Judge via Shutterstock

YESTERDAY SAW TWO high-profile cases in Irish courts: one in which a businessman avoided jail after attacking a teenager, and a second where a serial offender was jailed for two years for assaulting two teenage girls on the Luas.

In the former case, the victim was described as weeping in court after the man’s sentence was announced. She had been dragged into a room by Martin Quigley in a Killarney B&B in 2011 before being assaulted by him outside of her clothing.

Sentencing

Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, chief executive of the Rape Crisis Centre said she “wouldn’t support” the suggestion that both sentences are “low”.

“Cases come to court and the ones that are highlighted are the ones that are the exceptions. I don’t think there are any ‘exceptions’ but there are [some highlighted],” she said.

Of Quigley, O’Malley-Dunlop said that “he has been named – his community know what he has done. That’s a big punishment really”.

She said that when someone “gets a sentence that fits the crime, one would hope that society is safer”.

O’Malley-Dunlop told TheJournal.ie that “it’s really important to educate people around sentencing.” She pointed out there are four different types of categories around sexual crimes in law: rape, rape under section 4, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault”.

For aggravated sexual assault and rape, a judge has discretion to give up to a life sentence. Then for sexual assault it’s up to five years. This means that there’s guidance, but not guidelines per se, said O’Malley-Dunlop.

Informing victims

The Rape Crisis Centre CEO said that she thinks it is important that people know the circumstances of the cases.

In supporting victims, the RCC “would be very conscious of ensuring the victim is familiar with all that type of information,” she said.

“So they are not going to go into court with some sort of false expectation, that they are going to understand what the parameters are.

Difficulties

O’Malley-Dunlop pointed out that it is a very difficult thing to get a rape or sexual assault case to court. The DPP has to decide on the book of evidence, whether or not a case could be proved beyond reasonable doubt in court.

The RCC would like to see the DPP give reasons for why she decides not to put a case forward. This is because victims might think a case is not going forward because they weren’t believed, when in fact it was for legal reasons.

“Sometimes victims will opt out themselves because obviously it can happen so often that this is the first time a person has any exposure to the criminal justice system,” said O’Malley-Dunlop.

Victims discover they are a witness and don’t have representation. This can make some victims choose not to continue with the case.

Mandatory sentencing

The RCC does not support mandatory custodial sentencing. “It doesn’t work,” pointed out O’Malley Dunlop.

In other jurisdictions it doesn’t work. The last thing you want to do is encourage vigilantism.

They support that prison “should be about rehab not punishment”.

“Sexual crimes are on a spectrum and you have people who are serial sex offenders. Then you have people who have some kind of rage or anger in them that they act out in one particular way. One would hope that with treatment that they would not reoffend.”

Victims Directive

The victims directive will become law in 2015.

“What trumps everything in the criminal just system because of our constitution, everybody is entitled to a fair trial,” said O’Malley-Dunlop.

We believe that the system needs also to take into consideration the rights of the victim and the European directive on victims’ rights will certainly go a long way to rebalancing that.

Regarding judges, O’Malley-Dunlop said that she thinks judges need to have specialist education in this area “so they understand the consequences of trauma on an individual”. She also recommends that they only spend a certain amount of time working in this area.

RCC volunteers are, for example, given rigorous training and only work for RCC for two years. They are also supervised because of the impact the work might have on them.

The Rape Crisis Centre’s national 24-hour helpline is at: 1800778888 and its website is here.

Read: Cork judge agrees child rapist can be named>

Read: EU-wide survey on violence against women shows startling statistics>

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