A father-of-three jailed for having sex with a 14-year-old girl has had his prison sentence reduced following a successful appeal.
The 35-year-old man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had pleaded guilty at Roscommon Circuit Criminal Court to six counts of defilement of a child and one count of sexually assaulting the girl over a five month period in 2011.
He was sentenced to nine years imprisonment with the final three suspended by Mr Justice Tony Hunt on June 5 2014.
Counsel for the man, John Shortt SC, submitted to the Court of Appeal today that the sentencing judge erred in how he structured the sentence in that nine years with three suspended was imposed for the most minor of offences – the sexual assault.
The three-judge court agreed and imposed a new net sentence on him of five years imprisonment with the final 12 months suspended.
Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal today, Mr Justice John Edwards said the man, a married father-of-three, became friendly with the girl when she began babysitting for his family aged 14. He was in his early thirties at that time.
Both families attended a particular Christian church and following one meeting, he was giving her a lift home when he asked for a kiss.
This was the beginning of an escalating course of sexual contact which progressed to oral sex, repeated vaginal intercourse and anal intercouse, Mr Justice Edwards said.
It was properly characterised as repeated defilement of a child in every convievable manner, the judge said and she had expressed reluctance to participate in certain things.
There appeared to have been a number of breaks in contact followed by renewals from the man, Mr Justice Edwards said. It was only brought to an end by her mother discovering text messages on her phone and bringing them to the attention of gardaí.
The sentencing judge said the man had taken advantage of a friendship between both families and that the girl may have thought she was in some sort of mature relationship but nothing could be further from the truth.
This girl was being abused in a very progressive way having been identified and groomed, the sentencing judge said, and the conduct may well have continued were it not for vigilant parental intervention.
He was ashamed and remorseful, had suffered personal tragedy with the loss of a child and was considered to be at a low risk of reoffending.
Mr Justice Edwards said the Court of Appeal was satisfied there was a “clear error” in the structure of the man's sentence in that he was sentenced to nine years imprisonment with three suspended for the sexual assault count – the most minor of the offences which with he was charged.
Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said the court would impose two consecutive two-and-a-half year sentences.
The three-judge court suspended the final twelve months of the net five year sentence to incentivise rehabilitation.
The man was required to enter into his own bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for the suspended period of his sentence.
When asked if he undertook to be so bound, he said “yes”.