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Raped at 11: 'Why wasn't I told my attacker tried to be taken off the Sex Offenders Register?'

Amy Gilligan (28) heard that her attacker was appealing to be removed from the register through word of mouth.

Amy Gilligan
Amy Gilligan

AMY GILLIGAN WAS raped when she was just 11 years old.

Andrew Cox was 16 years old when he assaulted Gilligan in his bedroom. His mother was babysitting Gilligan at the time.

In 2003, two years after the assault, Cox was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, with two suspended.

However, last year Gilligan found out by chance that Cox was appealing to be removed from the Sex Offenders Register.

Gilligan had been anonymous in the original court case in 2003, but she has now waived her right to anonymity to raise awareness about victims not being notified when their attackers seek to be removed from the register.

The 28-year-old explained that she heard about the appeal through word of mouth in Athlone, where both she and Cox are from.

Gilligan contacted Athlone Garda Station when she heard and she was advised to write a letter for the judge. She also decided to attend the hearing on 30 May last year.

Gilligan told TheJournal.ie, “I guess I didn’t know what to expect.

“The gardaí were unsure as to whether the judge would listen to what I had to say.

There was a lot of uncertainty around whether I was going to be allowed in the court, whether I was going to be asked to leave or if he [the Judge] would read the letter.

“The man’s defence team tried to get me removed from the court because it was held in camera but the Judge decided to let me stay as I wasn’t just any member of the public.

The judge decided to keep Andrew Cox’s name on the register. Gilligan said:

I guess in a way it was justice being mantained, if they removed him from register it would have been undone.

“For me it was very empowering to be able to stand there and do what I did.

“It was almost like getting a second chance, for me, to address it and put it to rest.”

She added that knowing he was on the register was important to her.

It made me feel safe, I knew he was getting out of prison after three years but at least being on that register was always something that made me feel safe.

‘Victims getting notified is not a huge ask’

Gilligan is now appealing for all victims to be notified in cases were their attacker seeks to be removed from the register.

As it stands a convicted sex offender can apply to have their name removed from the Sex Offenders Register after 10 years on the register.

The convicted person is required to notify a district superintendent of their intention and the superintendent or other garda can appear and be heard at the hearing.

However, there is no formal process for victims to be notified.

TheJournal.ie asked the Department of Justice if there are any plans in place to implement a system where victims are notified. In a statement it said:

“The Government recently agreed to Minister Flanagan’s proposals for a new Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill and this will now be drafted. Minister Flanagan has indicated that he is open to proposals to add new provisions in this bill and that he intends to have discussions about the Sex Offenders Register.”

Gilligan hopes to speak to the Justice Minister about this in the coming months.

“Victims getting notified is not a huge thing to ask,” she said.

Speaking about the register, she said, “If you offend against children, you have to be watched.

In cases where you have somebody who attacks children, if you have that in you and that’s something you’ve done, you need to be monitored.

She added, “If you’re not classed as high risk you only have to check in every few months.”

However she pointed out that this is not about her or her attacker: “It’s about the safety of others.  If I speak about it and some sort of change happens then it wasn’t all for nothing.”

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