Man who abused and filmed stepdaughter has sentence reduced

ireland
Man Who Abused And Filmed Stepdaughter Has Sentence Reduced
Ms Justice Kennedy said the sentencing judge was correct to categorise the offences in the mid-range, but they did not merit a headline sentence of nine years
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Seán McCárthaigh

A Dublin man who sexually abused his stepdaughter and secretly recorded her undressing in a bathroom has had his jail sentence reduced by six months.

The 51-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, had appealed the severity of a six-year jail sentence imposed by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in July 2020.

The appellant had pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of his stepdaughter when aged 11 at his then address on an unknown date between September 1st, 2014 and December 31st, 2014.

He also pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography on a date between November 12th, 2015 and December 16th, 2016 and to producing child pornography on a date between November 11th, 2015 and April 16th, 2016.

Garda search

The offences came to light after gardaí had carried out a search of a house in Donegal. A tablet was found containing communications with the appellant which included images and videos of his stepdaughter undressing to take a shower in a bathroom, which he had filmed using a hidden spy camera.

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Skype text conversations involving the appellant also contained “obscene and depraved” pornographic material.

The victim subsequently revealed that her stepfather had touched her inappropriately on her chest and bottom on the pretext of treating her eczema.

Lawyers for the appellant claimed that the sentencing judge, Judge Elma Sheahan, had set excessive headline sentences in relation to each of the three offences particularly in her assessment of the gravity of the offences which were ranked in the mid-upper range.

Mitigating factors

They also claimed the judge failed to adequately take into account mitigating factors including the man's personal circumstances, his lack of previous convictions and the fact that he had engaged with the One in Four charity to address his offending.

Alternatively, they argued that the final sentence imposed of six years and nine months with the final nine months suspended was excessive.

Lawyers for the DPP had opposed the appeal on the basis that there was a progression of offending in the case.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeal with Mr Justice George Birmingham, presiding with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the appellant’s conduct in using a hidden camera was “conniving and deceitful”, while the content of the Skype messages was “egregious”.

However, in a written judgement Ms Justice Kennedy said four images of child pornography was relatively a “very low” number, while the images were “not in the most serious category.”

'Truly shocking'

Although not for commercial gain, she acknowledged the images were swapped with another individual and their content was “truly shocking”.

Ms Justice Kennedy said the sentencing judge was correct to categorise the offences in the mid-range, but they did not merit a headline sentence of nine years, which would have placed it in the upper mid-range.

She said the Court of Appeal would fix the appropriate sentence for the two child pornography offences at five years and six months - a reduction of six months.

The court left the original sentence for the conviction of sexual assault unchanged at three years.

The court also imposed a post-release supervision order of six years, with the condition that the appellant also receive psychological counselling.

 

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