By Ruaidhrí Giblin
A Cork pensioner who persistently raped his step-daughter from the age of 11 to 16, impregnating her twice, has moved to appeal against the severity of his 12-year jail term.
The 70-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to 18 counts of raping and sexually abusing the woman on dates between 1974 to 1979 at their Cork home.
The complainant, now a 53-year-old woman, made a statement to gardaí in 2013 informing them that the man moved into their home, after her father passed away, eventually marrying her mother.
She said her stepfather would take her out of her bedroom and onto the landing to have sexual intercourse with her three or four times a week.
She said she dreaded Sunday evenings when her mother went to bingo because her stepfather sexually abused her for the evening and on other occasions he raped her while her mother was downstairs.
She said the defendant never worked and was an alcoholic who drank all the money her mother brought into the house.
The Court of Appeal heard that the woman became pregnant aged 15. She lost one child and another was put up for adoption.
Sentencing the man to 14 years imprisonment with the final two suspended, Mr Justice Tony Hunt placed the offending on the highest end of the spectrum. Mr Justice Hunt chose 18 years as the headline sentence, but reduced this to 14 on account of the man’s admissions, guilty plea and remorse. The final two years were suspended due to the man’s age and medical issues.
Mr Justice Hunt had said rehabilitation was not a relevant concept in this case.
The man had already been serving a four-year sentence, handed down in February 2015, for indecent assaulting the woman's siblings.
Moving to appeal the severity of his sentence today, the man’s barrister Orla Crowe SC, submitted that the starting point of 18 years was too high.
Ms Crowe said she was relying heavily on a case known as ‘RK’, in which a sentence of 18 years with the final five suspended was reduced by the Court of Appeal to 12 with the final two suspended following an appeal.
Mr Justice Hunt had specifically referred to that case in his sentencing remarks stating that the present offending was “a notch above the ‘RK’ case”.
Ms Crowe said her client’s case was “on a par” with ‘RK’ rather than being a notch above. She asked the court to consider imposing a sentence on her client along the lines of ‘RK’.
She said this case involved historical allegations which were more difficult to prosecute and her client’s guilty plea was more valuable as a result of that.
She said one of the births occurred outside the realms of the indictment.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Imelda Kelly BL, said there was no evidence to suggest the man’s sentence was out of kilter with other sentences because no comparator cases had been provided to the court, other than ‘RK’.
Ms Kelly said the offending in ‘RK’ spanned a three-and-a-half year period while the offending in this case spanned five to six years.
Ms Kelly listed a number of aggravating factors present in this case, which weren’t present in ‘RK’. She said a fifteen-year-old had not been made pregnant in RK. There was an atmosphere in the household of complete fear, beatings and threats of violence. These allowed the offending to continue and were “mechanisms of control”. There was no evidence of any of that in ‘RK’.
Ms Kelly said the cases were clearly comparable and that there was no error in the sentencing judge’s placement of this case “a slight notch above” having regard to the aggravating factors.
With regard to rehabilitation, Ms Kelly said there was no demonstrable evidence or proposals for rehabilitation put before the court and the fact the man was no longer drinking was an “involuntary consequence of his incarceration”.
Reserving judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would deliver its decision on April 27 next.