Donegal man 'took every single opportunity' to rape close family members

Criminal Courts of Justice

A Co Donegal man convicted of 65 counts of raping and sexually assaulting two close family members, sometimes on a daily basis for over a decade, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The 48-year-old, who had denied all charges, was found guilty of 45 counts of rape and 20 counts of sexual assault on the two girls between September 16, 1998 and August 31, 2010.

A jury at the Central Criminal Court took just under two hours to find him guilty on all counts.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said the man took “every single opportunity” to subject both victims to repeated and constant sexual abuse over many, many years.

He said sentencing was not “an exercise in vengeance” but that the offences were of great seriousness and represented a major breach of trust.

He said the man had been in loco parentis to the first victim when she lived in his house for a while and when she spent a lot of time there babysitting.

Mr Justice McCarthy quoted from the woman's victim impact where she described having “lost her childhood” when the abuse began.

“The heartbreak is obvious,” he said, noting that the victim still suffers from overwhelming feelings of guilt, nightmares and panic attacks.

In the report, the woman said she spent her childhood “at the hands of a monster”.

The woman, now aged 24, said she was sexually assaulted at the age of nine and raped repeatedly from the age of 10, sometimes on a near-daily basis.

She said as a child she felt lonely because she had to carry the biggest secret of her life and couldn't tell anyone.

She once planned her own suicide because she felt she couldn't go on feeling dirty, horrible and unworthy of love.

“I can never get away from it, even when I sleep. Every day I fight to get out of bed, to find some chink of light to make life worth living. You destroyed me. You broke my trust in all men,” the statement read.

She said the man was supposed to be her guardian and her protector but that instead he was her “abuser and tormentor”, who treated her like a “rag doll” or like an “object to play with” for his own sexual gratification.

“I lived with the physical pain every time you raped me, but I live with the emotional pain all my life,” she said.

She apologised to the second victim, who was also sexually assaulted by the man.

“I feel it's my fault he abused you. If only I'd spoken out earlier – I'll never forgive myself for letting it happen to you,” she said.

The second victim, now in her late teens, submitted a victim impact report which was not read out in full to the court.

In the statement, the girl said she “lost her childhood” as a result of being sexually assaulted. She said she still has nightmares and difficulty sleeping.

She is fearful of being left alone in the house and feels guilty for breaking the family apart, although Mr Justice McCarthy said she has “no need” to feel guilty.

Garda Paul Forrestal told Paul Greene SC, prosecuting, that the first victim was aged around nine when the man, who lived nearby, began sexually assaulting her.

It started when she was watching TV lying on the couch, and he would place his hand inside her clothes.

The assaults also took place in a spare bedroom and in the man's bedroom.

From the age of 10, the man would push or pull the girl towards a bedroom, force her to lie face down on the bed and rape her.

The court heard that he used every possible occasion he could to rape the child, and that the rapes were “very, very frequent” when she lived with the man for a time.

The second victim told gardaí that the man also started sexually assaulting her at around the age of nine. The court heard the assaults followed the same pattern of abuse as with the other victim but they did not escalate to rape.

One specific allegation was made that in the summer of 2007, the man came home after a stag party and sexually assaulted the second victim, then aged 12.

Sean Gillane SC, defending, said the man has no previous convictions and has worked hard all his life.

Testimonials were handed to the court including letters from his parents who described him as someone that people could turn to in difficulty.

The court heard that the man separated from his wife when allegations were made against him, but that he has a strong relationship with his young son.

He sentenced the man to 10 years for each count of rape of the first victim, to run concurrently, and five years concurrently for each count of sexually assaulting the second victim.

The total five- and 10-year terms are consecutive to each other.

He backdated the sentence to February 3, 2014.

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