'I've known her since birth' - No jail for man who sexually assaulted seven-year-old neighbour

By Sonya McLean

A 77-year-old father of six has avoided a jail term for sexually assaulting his seven-year-old neighbour.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the girl's identity, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two charges of sexual assault in his Dublin home on dates in April 2017. He has no previous convictions.

Garda Fergal McSharry told Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting that on two occasions the man kissed the girl on the lips and patted her on her bottom after inviting her into his home.

He later said during a garda interview: “Honestly I don't know why I did what I did. I've known her since birth.”

He added there was nothing sexual in his mind and he wasn't sexually attracted to children.

“It was just human contact,” he told gardaí.

He said he deeply, deeply regretted it but didn't have enough courage to express his apologies to the family himself. He asked Gda McSharry to pass on his remorse on his behalf.

Judge Martin Nolan said it had been a traumatic experience for both the child and her parents but said in terms of sexual assaults it was on the lower end of the scale.

He described the man as being regretful and “stricken with remorse” before he suspended an 18-month sentence on strict conditions having noted that he was unlikely to re-offend.

The crimes came to light when the girl reported to her mother that she was outside waiting for the ice-cream van and when it never showed up her elderly neighbour invited her into his home for an ice pop.

The child said to her mother “wasn't that very nice of him” before she said the man then kissed her on the lips “again”. She then disclosed that he had kissed her the same way two weeks previously.

The incident was reported to gardaí and the child later told specialist interviewers that the man told her to keep it a secret and not to tell everyone. She said he had kissed her for a long time and she had felt uncomfortable about it.

Three months later the man came voluntarily to the station and made full admissions.

A victim impact report was handed into the court but not read out.

Carol Doherty BL, defending handed in four documents into the court, three references from family friends and one from a person the man had previously worked with.

She said her client suffered with depression and was diabetic. Counsel said the father of six had been very lonely since his wife died 12 years ago.

“He understands that his actions have had a detrimental and possible lasting effect on the victim and he is deeply remorseful for that,” Ms Doherty said.



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