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'Master manipulator' who abused seven members of one family loses appeal

The man was jailed for 20 years in 2017 for a series of offences over a 17-year period.

Image: Shutterstock/Pierre-Olivier

A “MASTER MANIPULATOR” who used his position as a trusted labourer on a family farm to rape six children and molest a seventh has lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence.

The abuser, described as “evil and disgusting” by one of his victims, was jailed for 20 years in 2017 for a series of offences over a 17-year period.

His victims told the court that their abuser had groomed, threatened and humiliated them, carrying out sometimes weekly assaults in outhouses, sheds and fields on the family farm.

The man, who can’t be named to protect the identities of his victims, only stopped the abuse when the eldest victim, by then an adult, threatened to expose him.

Judges at the Court of Appeal today dismissed his appeal in an ex tempore judgment following a brief hearing.

Barrister for the appellant, Roderick O’Hanlon SC, argued that the sentencing judge should have imposed a partially suspended sentence to give his client an incentive to rehabilitate.

He also said that the judge did not give sufficient regard to his client’s good record and the fact he had not offended in the 18 years following the last offence.

The court has heard that the man went on to have a family of his own and was a respected member of his community and a participant in a local church and GAA activities, O’Hanlon said.

Desmond Dockery SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions said that a good record can only be considered in cases where the offending behaviour is seen as a “lapse from grace”.

This case, he said, involved “heinous” abuse over many years against multiple victims. He said: “It could not be said that he comes before the court as a person of good character.”

Delivering today’s judgment Justice John Edwards said this case was at the utmost level of seriousness and noted that the sentencing judge had considered imposing a life sentence. He opted instead for a 20-year sentence with five years of post-release supervision having taken into consideration the man’s decision to plead guilty and other “modest” mitigating factors.

Justice Edwards said the Court accepts that rehabilitation is an important aim of sentencing but there are cases where other aims take priority.

In this case, he said, there was no evidence of remorse or an “earnest effort to reform or rehabilitate”. He said there was “no reality” to a suspended sentence as there was no basis to suggest he had gained any insight into his offending, addressed any of his underlying problems or shown any remorse.

He also dismissed an argument that the trial judge had not adequately considered that the abuser began offending when he was 15 and was, therefore, a minor. He pointed out that he was an adult when he began abusing four of the seven victims.

Justice Edwards, sitting with the President of the Court of Appeal Justice George Birmingham and Justice Isobel Kennedy, dismissed all grounds of appeal.

Evidence in trial

The now 53-year-old was aged 15 when he got a job as a farm labourer and began abusing his first victim. The sisters and brothers were aged as young as seven and ten when the abuse began. The attacks continued for 17 years, taking place in farm sheds, outhouses and fields.

He was charged with 187 counts of indecent assault and sexual assault of the seven children between 1982 and 1999. He pleaded guilty in December 2016 to 52 sample charges including oral and anal rape and was sentenced in March 2017.

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His first victim was just 10 years old when he began sexually assaulting him up to three times a week at various locations including within the family home.

In 1983, he also began orally raping the man’s 7-year-old sister. He continued to rape her for five years. At the same time, he was anally raping a third brother, who was aged between 10 and 12.

Six of the victims were subjected to sustained and regular assaults including rapes on a monthly and weekly basis. A seventh sibling was sexually assaulted twice from the age of seven.

The eldest child said his abuser was “a master manipulator” who split the children apart to control them and get what he wanted.

“I was overpowered by an evil and disgusting man who spent his life manipulating me,” he said. He later added that he felt that “it’s a miracle that we have all survived”.

Many of the victims described how sustained and regular abuse destroyed their childhood and has blighted their adulthood.

Some of the victims described struggling with alcohol abuse in their adult life and many said they still suffered from flashbacks, depression, anxiety and fear.

Trial judge Justice Patrick McCarthy said the man became the employee of the victims’ parents from a young age and a year later, he moved into the family home.

“He must have been treated as a family member, at least in terms of day to day matters,” the judge said, adding this made the crimes more obnoxious. He described them as being “a serious breach of trust”.

About the author:

Eoin Reynolds

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