'Today I hand back my guilt and hurt to dad,' says daughter after he gets 10 years for rape and abuse

A retired soldier who raped his daughter and regularly abused another daughter has been jailed for 10 years.

Justice Patrick McCarthy said that Jerry O'Keeffe's crimes brought about the destruction of his daughters' childhoods.

“It is hard to find words to describe each new outrage inflicted on these children,” the judge said.

O'Keeffe (aged 69), of Oakhill, Youghal, Cork, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to three charges of rape, five of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. These were nine sample charges out of a total of 78 covering a period from January 1980 to March 1987.

At a pre-sentencing hearing last October Timothy O'Leary SC, prosecuting, told the court that both women were waiving their right to anonymity.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said these were extremely serious offences and it beggared belief that a man could behave in such a fashion.

Melissa O’Keefe (left) and her sister Amy Barrett leave the Central Criminal Court in Dublin earlier this month. Pic Collins Courts.

In her victim impact statement Amy Barrett described her childhood as very traumatic, and said she was “a mixed bag of confusion and terror” as a result of her father's crimes.

Previously the court heard that the three charges of rape and two charges of indecent assault related to O'Keeffe's eldest daughter, Amy Barrett, and took place at the family home at The Arch, Youghal, Co Cork.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said O'Keeffe's rape of his daughter Amy, which began when she was eight years old, was a commonplace event and amounted to repeated, extremely serious abuse.

He said the assaults against Melissa O'Keeffe, which began when she was 11, were also extremely serious.

Mr Justice McCarthy said their victim impact statements conveyed a degree of hurt and pain that was difficult to understand.

He added that their experience was best summarised by Mrs Barrett's statement that she loved and trusted her dad, and he in turn had betrayed that trust.

Mr Justice McCarthy said Mr O'Keeffe's guilty plea must be taken into account in mitigation, but he said the plea came "not at the eleventh hour but at five minutes to midnight" after legal proceedings had commenced.

He said this case merited consecutive sentences relating to each daughter. He said the appropriate total period of imprisonment in this case should be 10 years.

He imposed a seven-year sentence for the rape offences and a three-year term of imprisonment for the sexual assaults, to run consecutively.

During a previous hearing last month Sgt John Sharkey told the court that O'Keefe regularly asked Amy, who was aged eight at the time, to sit on his lap in the sitting room. He would then sexually assault her before bringing her upstairs to his bedroom where he would remove his clothes and rape her.

The abuse ended in 1985 when Mrs Barrett was aged 12.

She said she found making friends very difficult and attempted suicide after the birth of her first child “just to get some peace.”

Melissa O'Keeffe and her sister Amy Barrett outside court today. Pic: Collins.

She said still suffers from panic attacks and the sexual abuse took most of her confidence away.

Mrs Barrett paid tribute to the Rape Crisis Centre in Cork, who she said supported her throughout the last few years since she reported the matter to gardaí.

“I have had feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment and hurt for years but today I hand them back to my Dad,” she said.

The remaining charges against O'Keeffe related to the abuse of his younger daughter, Melissa O'Keeffe, which took place at the family's new home at Catherine's Street, Youghal, Co Cork.

O'Keeffe would go into the child's bedroom late at night after returning from the pub and climb into bed beside her. He would then molest her, the court heard.

The sisters reported the abuse to the Southern Health Board in 1999 after attending the Rape Crisis Centre in Cork. As a result O'Keefe agreed to leave the family home and no further action was taken against him.

Melissa O'Keefe said she went to gardaí in 1999 but withdrew the allegations after her parents confronted her. Both victims reported the matter to gardaí again in October 2014.

A victim impact statement on behalf of Ms O'Keefe was read out to the court and described how she resisted calling out for her mother in case she got into trouble.

“I went to gardaí to make a complaint in 1999 but my parents confronted me so I had to lie and say I made it all up,” she said.

Ms O'Keefe said she found it hard to settle in relationships as a result of the abuse.

“If I get a certain smell or if someone moves in a certain way I freak out. But today I finally have the voice that I didn't have when I was 16,” she said.


 

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