Wexford man with 'heart of gold' gets 10-year jail term for rape

A Wexford man has been sentenced to ten years in prison with the final three suspended for raping a Kildare woman while she slept.

Owen Power (aged 20), who was described in testimonials as having “a heart of gold” and being a gentleman, had met then then 19-year-old victim briefly for the first time that night while they were both out socialising in Wexford.

Power of Michael J Synnott Drive, Castlebridge, was found guilty by a Central Criminal Court jury last July of raping the now 21-year-old in Wexford on February 5, 2012. He was registered a sex offender when evidence was heard last week.

Mr Justice Paul Carney said that Power had “an extraordinarily level of alcohol in his system”.

“In my experience over more than 20 years, when a young man of previously good and exemplary character goes out and takes this level of alcohol, they may very well come to having perpetrated either a homicide or a rape, it being a lottery as to which,” Mr Justice Carney said.

He said it was a particularly aggravating factor in this case that the woman, considering she was asleep when Power raped her, was “deprived of her security and sanctuary” somewhere she should have been entitled to it.

Mr Justice Carney took into account Power’s lack of previous convictions but said the level of alcohol he consumed on the night was an aggravating factor.

He sentenced Power to ten years in prison with the final three suspended and ordered that he undergo 18 months post release supervision.

Pauline Walley SC, prosecuting, said there had been no “romantic interaction” between the pair and they both had been drinking heavily. They returned to the same house with mutual friends and the victim went straight to bed.

Garda Sean Twomey said that Power was spotted going into the victim’s bedroom later that night and told by another party-goer to get out.

The victim woke another girl up later to tell her that she had been raped by Power.

She called her father and told him what had happened. He turned up at the house and punched Power who had been sitting outside after his daughter pointed him out as the culprit.

The victim was taken to the garda station by her father. Power had arrived at the same station complaining that he had been assaulted. He was heavily intoxicated but was “deemed fit for interview” after a local doctor had assessed him.

He told gardaí that “the birds and the bees happened” between him and the victim after they had talked for about ten minutes. He claimed the sex had been consensual but couldn’t recall the girl’s name.

The victim later told gardaí that she woke up to find Power with his hand on her breast. She thought she was dreaming but he then raped her.

She was not present in court for the sentence hearing but her victim impact statement was read into the record.

In that she stated that she now needs her family to look after her on a day-to-day basis because she can’t do anything for herself and doesn’t like to be alone.

“Rape was one of my worst fears, now it feels like all my fears can hurt me,” she said.

She said she often can’t sleep at all and when she does she has nightmares.

“Some days I can’t eat at all and some days I feel so empty that I can’t stop eating,” she continued.

The woman said that normal every day things like going to the shop, stress her out and she feels like she is stuck in a deep depression.

She said the rape has changed her as a person and has changed her life forever.

Gda Twomey agreed with Mary Rose Gearty SC, defending, that her client has no previous convictions.

He said he was not aware that Power has been diagnosed as being bi-polar and that he had been on medication but accepted that a psychiatric report confirmed that is the case.

Ms Gearty read a letter from Power’s mother which stated that she understood the seriousness of the charge.

She said she and her son always had a special bond and described him as being a quiet and gentle child.

The woman asked the court to take into account that her son will have to live with the fact that he is a convicted rapist for the rest of his life and said the family think “the world of him”.

Counsel read out further testimonials that described Power as a very hard worker who often helped out local people with general house maintenance and gardening.

One letter described him as “having a heart of gold” and said his talents would be wasted in prison.

Another said he was “gentleman” and prison would have a detrimental affect on his character.

Ms Gearty told Mr Justice Carney that her client had spent time as an in-patient in a Wexford hospital due to his mental health in 2009.

She said he has started studying Leaving Certificate courses while on remand in prison and suggested that he could be a good member of society upon his eventual release from prison.

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