A man who falsely imprisoned, tied up and raped a woman in a hotel meeting room during a Dublin gaming convention has been jailed for 12 years.
Keith Hearne (aged 28) rugby tackled Dominique Meehan to the ground after cornering her in a meeting room at the ArcadeCon convention before telling her: “I could break your neck here and now, would you prefer that?”
He then bound her hands behind her back with his tie, stripped her and raped her. When she screamed he told her he had a knife in his bag and would use it if she wasn't quiet.
Handing down the 12-year sentence today at the Central Criminal Court, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said it was difficult to express the horror and seriousness of the offence.
He said Hearne carried out “a series of extremely violent sexual offences in circumstances which consisted of her false imprisonment over a period of time”.
“This is an offence of the utmost seriousness for this class of offence,” he said. The judge said Hearne's only mitigating factor was his plea of guilty. And he noted that Hearne was caught during the act, which he said further reduced the mitigating factor.
Applause rang out in court after the sentence was handed down. Hearne gave no reaction to the sentence.
Hearne of Allenton Drive, Tallaght, Dublin pleaded guilty to two counts of rape, one count of oral rape and one count of falsely imprisoning Ms Meehan at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Blanchardstown on July 4, 2015. He was taken into custody last April ahead of sentencing.
His bag containing a prop knife, handcuffs, condoms, a mask and “sadomasochistic” items was later found at the scene.
Ms Meehan (aged 25) said she wished to waive her right to anonymity in order to help more people come forward about sexual abuse.
Speaking outside court she said she was “ecstatic” at the sentence, even though she felt it was too light. “This is what the gaming community needed to prove that this man was as evil as he is,” she said, adding she would not be able to attend a gaming conference for a very long time.
“People still aren't taking it seriously. They're still allowing their staff to go on their own, and while it wasn't ArcadeCon's fault that I was on my own, we have to learn from this. If conventions don't learn from this then it's going to happen again.”
Nothing in her life was the same since she was raped, she added. “I have to treat every day like someone is going to rape me. I am constantly on alert.”
Defence barrister Michael Bowman SC previously told the court that Hearne had mental health issues and suffered from a bipolar disorder. He had not taken his medication for some time around the time of the attack.
But Mr Justice McCarthy found he was “of sound mind” when he carried out the offence. He said his culpability was not diminished in any way, notwithstanding his mental health difficulties.
The judge also noted that since the attack Hearne had failed to take his medication for periods of time. He ordered that Hearne remain under post-release supervision for five years.
Garda Lisa Lawler previously told prosecuting counsel, Shane Costelloe SC, that Ms Meehan was volunteering at the gaming convention in the hotel on the day in question.
She was preparing a presentation in a meeting room when Hearne entered the room and sat at the back. Ms Meehan became uneasy and moved to leave the room but Hearne locked the door and “rugby tackled” her to the ground, the court heard.
He then raped and sexually assaulted her viciously, causing her “intense pain” the court heard. During the attack, he struck her and grabbed her by the back of the head. She also suffered injuries from the initial fall.
The attack came to an end when another conference worker heard her screams and entered the room. Gardaí were called and Hearne was arrested at the scene.
He told gardaí he had gone to the convention in the hopes of getting with another woman. When that woman rejected him he said he had “anger flowing through him” and he then entered the meeting room and attacked Ms Meehan.
In her victim impact statement, Ms Meehan described how she woke up every night crying for months after the attack, “thinking he had come back to finish the job”.
“Before this, I wouldn't call myself an angry person,” she said. “But now I punch walls, scream and walk out on conversations. I don't know what to do with this anger.”
She described how she has struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder since she was raped. “People see me smiling and laughing. They don't see me curled up under a blanket on my sofa,” she said.
Ms Meehan described how she has had numerous piercings and tattoos since the attack “just so I can feel like my body is my own and not something he touched.”
“He may go to prison, but I'm already there because of what he did,” she said.
Mr Bowman said his client engaged in “absolute opportunism and exploitation” of his victim and that there was “no excuse” for what he did. It was an “unspeakable intrusion and violation of her person”, he added.
However, he submitted Hearne has no previous convictions and suffers from a range of conditions, including Aspergers Syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia and bi-polar disorder.
He is now back on his medication and is “remorseful in the extreme”, Mr Bowman said.